Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

Where I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Marc Thompson

Publisher: Random House Audio (2015)

Length: 9 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 12 Star Wars

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 12 in the series, it works perfectly fine as a stand alone novel.

This story is set in between the original tales of New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Told from Luke Skywalker’s viewpoint, there’s plenty of daring piloting, espionage, laser blasts, and a touch of flirting. Luke is running several small missions for Admiral Ackbar and Princess Leia Organa. Then this much more important, and dangerous, mission comes along: rescue an Empire cryptographer, Drusil, who is under constant surveillance. Skywalker will have to team up with new recruit Nakari Kelen, who has a rather fancy space yacht.

This is my first Star Wars novel and it was a lot of fun. I was interested in this book because I have read Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and really enjoyed them, and I really enjoy Star Wars, so I figured if you put the two together, you’d  have something I really enjoyed. And, indeed, it was quite a bit of fun. There’s no major game changers or reveals in this novel, but considering where it’s placed in the Star Wars timeline, that’s to be expected.

I like the addition of the character Nakari. She’s independent, assertive, and competent. Also, the Rebel Alliance isn’t too sure how far they can trust her so for much of the book I had to  wonder if she was a double agent and would betray the mission in some way. This added some suspense to the novel. She also brought some humor to the story line with her jokes and gentle teasing of her father, a bio mogul who practically has an army himself – an army of scientists and explorers that search out new life forms to study for his pharmaceutical labs.

There were several smaller ‘missions’ that had to be accomplished first in order to go after the big target (rescuing the cryptologist) and I liked that this was a multi-layered space adventure. First, Skywalker is being sent off to negotiate with a group of weapons dealers and along the way he interferes in the Imperial pursuit of an unknown ship (just because he can). Once he receives this cryptologist mission, the space yacht needs upgrades and that means running some errands for Nakari’s dad. So there’s plenty of opportunities for mistakes to happen, death to creep in, dismemberment to be claimed later on the insurance forms.

Luke is also still exploring his abilities with the Force. He doesn’t have a current Jedi teacher and he feels a little lost in this area. He does carry his lightsaber that his father left him and a few others he comes across in this adventure know what one is on sight. Luckily, the lightsaber wins him some much-needed allies even as he has to cut down foes with it. Little nuggets of wisdom come from various sources and Luke puts them to use in getting in touch with the Force. In this book, he’s still a bit unsure of himself, awkward in romance, and just a touch naive. It’s totally how I picture him in my mind at this point in the Star Wars timeline.

The book is well balanced with plenty of action, moments of reflection (mostly Force related), some well-timed humor, and perhaps a budding romance. I also enjoyed that R2D2 was around for most of the story as he is one of my favorite characters. Other original characters make cameos in this book, either in person or as memories of Luke’s. All in all, it struck the perfect Star Wars tone and it was a great fix for my Rebel Alliance need. Now, all I need are some Nerf Nuggets.

A fellow blogger (thanks Audio Book Reviewer) sent me a box of bookish goodies a few months ago as a get well present and this is one of those books. This is not a review copy but I felt like reviewing it anyways. As always, my opinions are my own.

The Narration: Marc Thompson was a great pick for this book. He sounded like a young Luke Skywalker and his voice impersonations of other classic Star Wars characters were pretty good as well. I loved his light snark for Nakari. He had to come up with some inventive alien voices and I am sure his throat was raw after some of those sounds he came up with! There were lots of sound effects and music for this audiobook. Mostly, they were on target though there are a few places where the effects drowned out the narration. Also, sometimes the music would be playing in the background and I couldn’t figure out why – it just seemed off. Most of the time, it was perfect, reflecting a poignant or triumphant or anxious moment. Yet a few times the music was not reflective of the moment and I wondered why it was there distracting from the story. Still, all in all, it was like listening to a Star Wars movie and Thompson’s performance was excellent. 

What I Liked: The many unsung missions of Luke Skywalker are finally being told; Nakari is a fun addition to this story; plenty of aliens; plenty of action scenes; a little flirting; Luke continues to explore his abilites with the Force; Nerf nuggets!; great narration!

What I Disliked: Sometimes the music sound effects were just too much.

What Others Think:

The Force.net

Making Star Wars

Geekritique

BuzzyMag

Coffee with Kenobi

The Wookie Gunner

EU Cantina

Nerdvanna

Giveaway & Interview: Bijhan Valibeigi, Author of The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship

ValibeigiBeginningOfABizarreFriendshipEveryone, please welcome Bijhan Valibeigi to the blog today! She’s here to chat about RPGs, Power Rangers, Steven Saylor books, and plenty more!  If you want to find out about the GIVEAWAY, then scroll to the bottom. You can also check out my review of her book, The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship, which I quite enjoyed.

If you could be an extra on a SFF movie or TV show, what would it be?

My first instinct would be to say one of the upcoming Star Trek films, in no small part because I would look excellent in one of those red skirted uniforms, but when I think about the set on which I’d probably have the most fun, it would probably have to be Power Rangers.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Again, the answer comes back to Power Rangers. Who wouldn’t want to be swept up into the arms of those beautiful heroes? If footage existed of me being saved by the Power Rangers, I would watch it every morning with my breakfast.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Parks and Recreation. Every once in a while, I remember that there will never be another new episode, and my heart breaks a little. The answer would be 30 Rock, but now that The Muppets is on the air, that void has been filled.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

There’s something especially grueling about working a job with a lot of down time and a lot of physical labor, like the work I did as a grocery clerk. Most people would assume that the strenuous labor would be the worst part, and it is not pleasant, but the real pain came from the need to turn my brain off. I cannot turn my brain off. That’s why I write, design games, compose music, and paint: My brain is constantly overflowing, and not having anywhere for my ideas to go is a special kind of pain.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

Star Trek was a pioneer in this field in the 1970s. Selling Spock shirts and Captain Kirk action figures was big money, so they began licensing for other products, including wonderful novels, comic books, and tabletop games which expanded the context of the Star Trek universe. This effort was decentralized, however, and therefore often contradictory and incompatible. George Lucas stepped up the multimedia game with Star Wars, which enhanced the core movies with novels, comics, television, and genuinely high-quality games of both the electronic and tabletop variety. Realizing the power of unified branding and cross-platform storytelling, Marvel and DC followed Star Wars’ lead. Unfortunately, Star Trek never made the leap to a wholly unified universe.

The Time Wars universe is one of my own creation, a vast series of interconnected timelines, sewing together the fates of Humanity, Vampires, aliens, spies, soldiers, heroes, and every people. In the tabletop RPG I designed, Time Wars: Strike Team [link: timewarsuniverse.com/StrikeTeam.html], which is available as a free downloadable PDF, players can take on the roles of superhuman time travelers who battle vampiric enemies from the Stone Age to the Galactic Age. I’ve also created a strategy card game, the world’s first deck-stacking game, Time Wars: Supreme Command [link: timewarsuniverse.com/SupremeCommand.html], where players use cards to assemble their Time Travelers, and duel for control over the Timeline as they set their own goals and foil the goals of their opponents. There are cards in the game which represent characters from not only The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship [link: timewarsuniverse.com/Books.html], the first novel in the Time Wars Tales fiction brand, but also the ongoing flash fiction series Time Wars Tales: Legends of the Order  [link:timewarsuniverse.wordpress.com]. The events of Legends of the Order provide a deeper context for the events of The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship, although both can be thoroughly enjoyed on their own.

My ideas have always transcended any one form of media. I can’t help but write music for the characters I create, develop stories for the games I design, and weave together my various stories into a larger narrative. In fact, one of the first games I ever designed came from sheer excitement at just having read the first Harry Potter novel, at which point I promptly invented a board game where players became students at Hogwarts. Perhaps it’s from consuming so much Star Trek and Star Wars as a youngster. It’s certainly enough for me to name my series Time Wars as an homage.

If you’d like to support the strategy card game, we will be having a Kickstarter for Time Wars: Supreme Command starting March 27th, and you can follow @TimeWarsRPG on Twitter for updates on that. You can also support all my multimedia work, including my music, comics, recipes, and more at Patreon.com/BijhanValibeigi.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

The “Roma Sub Rosa” books by Steven Saylor would make a fantastic video game. Because it’s a murder mystery series, I would want it to be an original story so I couldn’t guess the ending. In the stories, there’s often a sense of running out of time, and there’s a lot of daring escapes, but very few out-and-out fights. Since so many video games are either currency-based, or about obvious violence, it would be really fun to have an action mystery game to change it up. Also, it would be a lot of fun to solve crimes while immersed in the sights and sounds of Ancient Rome.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

I’d have a few…
“Cries at children’s television shows, but not funerals.”
“Needs chocolate daily, and hugs three times daily, or else unit ceases to function.”
And, finally, “Not a meaningful source of f**ks.”

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Most definitely. At a very young age I came to understand all media as having been created by a person, and therefore I could be that person. I wrote children’s books as a very small child and made copies for my parents. I would create elaborate stories and draw the characters in great detail. As I grew older I wrote embarrassingly self-indulgent action stories with no literary merit, along with some pretty funny sketch comedy. So it feels like a very natural progression into being a writer of more elaborate and meaningful fiction. Although, directly to the point of the question, what was I like as a kid? I was very strange. I would embody the characters of my imagination in every way. My mother likes to tell the story of how, one day, when I was a very small child, I went to sleep while pretending to be a dog, and when I woke up, I woke up as a dog, down to the bark and the panting. The realm of my mind has always felt very real, and something I’m eager to share.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

A large part of me just wants to see some awesome drama. It would be an occasion for me to kick back and watch people yell at each other.

So, therefore, I would want the first three to be William F. Buckley, Jr., Gore Vidal, and Truman Capote. The final two, to fill out the rabble-rousers who would absolutely loathe one another, would have to be Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. These five people would absolutely hate one another, and I would love to watch them argue and feud. I imagine Buckley and Vidal would find some way for their orders to be barbs at one another, while Capote would probably order something self-indulgent. Hobbes would make a very conservative choice, based on the cost and health; Locke would likely have brought something from home.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I have a terrible memory for faces, and I’m not much better with names, so I often have fans who have met me before approach me as if we are old friends, but whom I cannot recall at all. I, personally, have not had an opportunity to geek out over an author in person. I did, however, have an extended e-mail correspondence with Keith DeCandido when I was in high school about the Star Trek novels he wrote. I have no idea why he provided such detailed responses to such a bratty child – which I most assuredly was at the time – but our conversations on the non-binary nature of Andorian gender roles actually played a part in my own awakening to my identity as a gender outside the binary. I had a chance to email him again, as an adult, to thank him for that correspondence. He admitted no memory of it, which is understandable, and was very kind and gracious – as always.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

I have three arguments I get in most regularly, and perhaps most passionately, because my opinions are not popular. To be brief, and not to go into detail:

1) Star Trek: the Next Generation was a bad sequel to Star Trek.

2) Power Rangers is deeply underrated as a science fiction series.

3) Most contemporary mainstream video games are really boring and derivative.

BijhanValibeigiAuthorAbout Bijhan Valibeigi

Bijhan Valibeigi is a writer, game designer, musician, and trans Muslim from West Seattle. When Bijhan is not pwning newbs in every kind of game ever made, hating on TNG for being objectively worse than Star Trek, or cheering for the BC Lions, she spends time at home with her partner RaeRae, three lovely cats Reza, Kya, and Jasper, and old cranky dog Elsa.

Find Bijhan and her works online

Website

Patreon

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Facebook

Time Wars Facebook

Twitter

Amazon

ValibeigiBeginningOfABizarreFriendshipSynopsis of The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship

In the 161st Century, the Vampires have conquered their own Homeworld of Earth, and driven Humanity into the furthest reaches of space. From our exile across the galaxy, our people use time travel technology to wage a war against Vampirekind. We must change the past to protect the future.
Yet there are heroes who do not use time travel technology – clandestine warriors who remain in the shadows to hunt the monsters who lurk there. This secret-cloaked sorority is usually quite skilled at protecting its mysteries.

But sometimes, secrets can become revealed…

 

GIVEAWAY!!!

Bijhan is graciously offering up 3 ebook copies of The Beginning to a Bizarre Friendship. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below, or answer the following in the comments:  1) Which dead author(s) would you like to have dinner with?  2) Leave a way to contact you (email or twitter or facebook). Giveaway ends midnight June 10, 2016.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Domino Finn, Author of The Seventh Sons

FinnTheSeventhSonsEveryone, please welcome Domino Finn! He’s the author of the Sycamore Moon series. I greatly enjoyed The Seventh Sons, book 1 in the series. Today we chat about Miami, Sherlock Holmes, a few movies, plus so much more! Also, we have a lovely AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY (open to US & UK) so don’t miss that at the end of the post.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

This might be a cop out, but I’d have to go with Conan Doyle. (I considered Poe and Dumas, and while I might have more fun at a bar with them, I think I could learn the most from Doyle). As a huge mystery fan, his Sherlock Holmes adventures really inspired me to write. I would pick his brain about story ideas, research methods, and iconic character development.

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

I wouldn’t say they need to become more. It’s okay for Chewbacca and Boba Fett to be one-dimensional. They can still be cool. But relationships are two-sided, and a well-fleshed out sidekick can really challenge and deepen the hero. Dr. Watson is an interesting example. The original Sherlock canon didn’t delve too deeply into his character, but if you watch modern cinematic interpretations, a living, breathing, opinionated Watson does both characters some good.

Which would rest easier on your shoulders: to never be able to leave your home city, or to never be able to go back to it?

Which is my preferred hell, huh? I left my home city of Miami eleven years ago and I used to visit often. Not as much nowadays, but I couldn’t dream of never going back. That said, I love to travel. The Americas, Europe, Asia. It’s a tough question. But because you drive a hard bargain, I suppose I’d admit there’s no place like home.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I HAVE SO MANY ANSWERS. The Matrix for the ground-breaking special effects (and the twist). The Sixth Sense for the emotion (and the twist). But I think I’d have to go with Seven. For some reason, I was so invested in the detectives catching the killer. Kevin Spacey played such an arrogant serial killer and I couldn’t wait for the climax of that film.

How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

I like to fall somewhere in the middle with references. I definitely stay away from the latest meme or twitter hashtag – that stuff won’t be funny a month from now – but a lot of modern pop culture will stand the test of time. References help fill the gaps of our fictional societies, so I go big and don’t worry about dating. Besides, time and place is what gives a novel character. I love all the pay phone stops in the first Harry Bosch book!

FinnTheBloodOfBrothersWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Writing is easy compared to other professions. Let’s get that out of the way. It takes hard work, dedication, practice – but it’s not manual labor. I love my job most days. You want a difficult job? Program video games. With cutting edge technology, you need constant improvement to stay ahead of the curve. The hours alone violate the Geneva Convention.

Do you have any superstitions?

Most days I’d say no, but when I’m watching college football, I swear the players can hear me through the TV.

Would you choose to live permanently in a fictional world, or visit as many as you liked but you couldn’t stay more than a few hours?

So I’m allowed to leave Miami?

I’d definitely go with the temporary option. After a while, Wonderland gets a bit overwhelming.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I never declared that I’d be a writer, but I constantly came up with stories and games. Novels, Choose You Own Adventures, flip books, board games, computer rpgs. I’m not really sure I finished all that many but I was full of ideas. It wasn’t until my twenties that I realized I could pursue a creative field, however.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

I’ll go with a guy’s night out at a bar.

Batman, for his war stories.
Homer Simpson, for years of laughs.
R2D2, for his loyal sidekick/ beer-fetching qualities.
James Bond, to class up the joint.
And Tyrion Lannister, because who would be more fun to drink with?

FinnTheSeventhSonsThe Seventh Sons book blurb:

Two years after his wife went missing, Detective Maxim Dwyer is still running down leads. The isolated woods of Sycamore are home to many lawless men, and no one’s talking, but that hasn’t stopped Maxim from gathering suspects. Topping his list is the local motorcycle club, the Seventh Sons. His biggest obstacle? Everyone swears the bikers are werewolves. The small-town residents are wary of provoking the MC, and the marshal’s office is no exception.

Everything changes when a routine biker brawl turns fatal. Going against procedure, Maxim presses an enigmatic stranger for answers. But Diego de la Torre is running his own con. The outlaw deals in lies and legends, and no adversary can back him down. Not even the police.

It’s too bad that nobody’s above the law for Maxim. He’s willing to risk his badge, and his life, to prove it.

The Seventh Sons is whispersynced (with the ebook purchase, the audiobook only costs $1.99). The first 5 chapters are up on Domino’s site.

FinnTheBloodOfBrothersThe Blood of Brothers book blurb:

Diego de la Torre is officially an outlaw now, a full-fledged member of The Seventh Sons Motorcycle Club. The werewolf MC runs the wild lands of Sycamore with ease. At least until a dead body shows up and points to them as the culprits.

Detective Maxim Dwyer presses the Seventh Sons hard, but there are other guns in play. California bikers look to expand their drug trade. A mercenary outfit seeks revenge. Top that with an overbearing FBI agent who undermines local police, and both detective and outlaw have their hands full.

Brothers or not, Sycamore’s about to get a whole lot bloodier.

Places to Stalk Domino Finn

Website
Twitter
Facebook
GoodReads

GIVEAWAY!

Domino Finn is giving away two Audible copies of Book 1 (The Seventh Sons) and two of Book 2 (The Blood of Brothers). Each book stands on it’s own. Winners will need to redeem the audiobook gift through Audible.com or Audible.co.uk. You don’t need an Audible account to redeem the gifted audiobook, just an Amazon account. Enter the Rafflecopter below, or answer the following in the comments: 1) How do I contact you if you win? 2) Do you have a preference of book if you do win? 3) Which 5 fictional characters would you invite out for a night of beers? Giveaway ends Midnight Aug. 31, 2015.

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Interview: Jennifer Allis Provost, Author of The Copper Legacy

ProvostCopperGirlFolks, please welcome author Jennifer Allis Provost to the blog today. We talk about Star Wars, inviting fictional characters out for a drink, most difficult job, and plenty more. Come join us and be entertained!

If you could be an extra on a movie or TV series, what would it be?

Probably Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve seen every episode, read every comic, and I bet I could stake a few vampires. Or get bitten, who knows.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

I think they already are. Take unicorns, for example; before Peter S. Beagle wrote The Last Unicorn, all unicorns were male. His solitary unicorn in a lilac wood was the first female unicorn, and paved the way for such franchises as My Little Pony and the like.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I’d love to see Star Wars all over again. I was only two or three when I saw it in the theater; local legend says that when Darth Vader was about to torture Princess Leia I yelled out, “Don’t hurt the lady!” I’d just love to fall in love with the movie all over again.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?

A unicorn would be pretty cool! And of course I would take a selfie 🙂 As for what I would avoid, chupacabra tops that list *shudders*

ProvostHeirToTheSunWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

My worst job and my most difficult job were two different jobs. My worst job was a senior benefit analyst for a company that shall remain nameless (mostly so I don’t get hit with a libel suit). Anyway, the job was horrendous, and one day I had enough, grabbed a copy paper box, packed up my desk and left. Man, walking out the last time really felt good.

As for my most difficult job, I once worked for a conservation commission in as a wetland delineator. I used a GPS (which was cutting edge technology at the time) to remap many wetlands in Western Massachusetts. It was incredibly hard, from the physical aspect of hiking in varied terrain and weather conditions to the cognitive aspect of translating the GPS coordinates and drawing the maps. That job was a lot like writing; both immensely difficult and immensely rewarding.

Do you have any superstitions?

Well, I won’t step on cracks, the first things I moved into my new house were bread and salt, and I always wish upon stars. So yeah, maybe a little.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I’d probably return to my environmental science roots and do more field work, maybe on invasive plants.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Who to invite, who to invite… Aerin from The Hero and the Crown, Phedre from Kushiel’s Dart, R2D2 from Star Wars (I guess he’d have motor oil), Cordelia from Buffy/Angel, and Max from Where the Wild Things Are.

ProvostCopperGirlCopper Girl Book Blurb:

Sara had always been careful.

She never spoke of magic, never associated with those suspected of handling magic, never thought of magic, and never, ever, let anyone see her mark. After all, the last thing she wanted was to end up missing, like her father and brother.

Then, a silver elf pushed his way into Sara’s dream, and her life became anything but ordinary.

ProvostHeirToTheSunHeir to the Sun Book Blurb:

A mad king. An escaped slave. One warrior to save the realm…

When Asherah, stripped of both her memory and her dignity, learns that King Sahlgren is responsible for her torment it nearly breaks her. Instead, she leads her fellow slaves to freedom. More prisons are scattered across Parthalan, and Asherah vows to burn them all.

Caol’nir, a warrior descended from the gods, is sworn to serve and defend the king. Then a priestess is murdered, and Caol’nir learns that Sahlgren is to blame. Determined to stop the king, sacred oath or no, Caol’nir joins Asherah’s rebellion.

What Caol’nir doesn’t know is that Sahlgren has promised the demon lord a woman of rare and singular beauty, a woman whose abilities are rumored to rival the sun god’s themselves…a woman Caol’nir knows all too well.

Places to Find Jennifer Allis Provost

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chronicles-of-Parthalan/124456990908780

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25449880-heir-to-the-sun

Twitter: @parthalan

Website: http://authorjenniferallisprovost.com/

Giveaway & Interview: Jennifer Anne Seidler, Author of Dry Land

SeidlerDryLandFolks, it is my pleasure to have Jennifer Anne Seidler on the blog today. I very much enjoyed her scifi romance, Dry Land, and it was a real treat to interview her. Today we chat about hard scifi, best & worst jobs, show chickens, scifi romance, and much more! If you’re interested in the audiobook giveaway, scroll to the bottom.

If you could be an extra on a SF series or movie,  what would it be?

I love this question! I would say I would love to be someone in a control room at a launch of some important mission, whether it be from Earth or as a controller guiding ships from some distant planet. I would suppose that if I were actually part of the mission, I wouldn’t be an extra. So, give me a uniform and a pair of headphones, a mic, and some sort of display to watch, and I’ll be happy. That, and I can use my Chuck Yeager voice, do the countdown, and say “roger that.”

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? How does this feed into your idea of hard science fiction?

I love Space Opera, but my preference is for hard sci fi. I prefer that in most of my reading, to be honest. I love created worlds but I really love it when a writer can take our world and make it fantastic. I read Michio Kaku’s books about science in the future and mankind in that future and it is amazing the potential this world has – both for the amazing and the frightening. I find it fascinating to explore that in books and in the things I write. There’s a rule that technology the way it’s going now renews itself, turns over every eighteen months. Part of me wonders if the fantastical future will happen during my lifetime. If not, I can die knowing I’ve at least dreamt and read a taste of it.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I don’t think I’ve had a job that I can say is the “worst.” Perhaps it was one of my first jobs out of law school, when I was relegated to a desk, reviewing documents day in and day out. Important for the litigation, maybe, but boring as hell for me. I prefer to be “out there.” My favorite job was when I was deeply involved with the legal aspects of arson investigation – getting out in my grubby clothes and slogging around fire scenes, tagging behind some of the most brilliant minds in fire investigation. That was some amazing stuff. But, yes, it’s true that none of that compares to writing. Dry Land is my first touch into published fiction, but I do feel that I have to write every day. If I don’t write in some form or another I go a little stir. 🙂 Whether it is throwing down ideas for more Ted and Colby or hobby writing with some of my writing partners, writing gives me a sense of peace, accomplishment, and sanity.

Dogs, chickens, rabbits, & a hamster! Who gets fed first? Are any of them show animals, or purely for family enjoyment?

The dog gets fed first. 🙂 The chickens and rabbits, my husband takes care of. I do go out there and help him clean things up every few weeks (gross!) but the care and feeding is his bailiwick. We did show chickens for a few years. My oldest son, Ian, won junior showmanship a few years back at the Lodi Fair — something he was pretty proud of. My daughter tried her hand at showing rabbits, but it wasn’t her thing. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a moratorium on showing poultry at fairs this year because of that bird flu, but… maybe next year.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

A beer. Definitely a beer. I would invite: Eugene Wrayburn, Thursday Next, Lord John Grey, Hercule Poirot, and Captain Jack Harkness. How’s that for a crowd?

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in science fiction romance literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

OOH! I think I’d devote entire units to Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jasper Fforde, Rob Shearman, Ursula K. LeGuin, KM Herkes, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Jennifer Roberson; and then to the indies, of course, and there are so many of them that I love! I’ve probably forgotten some, therefore, I will leave room in the syllabus for my students to do independent studies on their favorite SFR authors.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Of course, to quote Weird Al, “Do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?” That and… which is better – Star Trek or Star Wars? And finally… why does everyone love Loki so much when he’s a psychotic mass murderer?

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I had this volume of poetry and fairy tales called “Young Years.” I remember my grandmother challenged me to read through it, and I did. And I loved it. I still have that book to this very day, although I have passed it on to my daughter. I still vividly remember the illustrations.

SeidlerDryLandDry Land Book Blurb:

When mankind toys with nature, nature fights back. Astronaut Ted “Shakespeare” Hardiston is setting off on the adventure of a lifetime — for the rest of his life. He reluctantly leaves behind his wife, an android/human hybrid, to command the first base on the surface of the moon. Ted and the crew of Space Shuttle Liberty complete their mission, gifting the Moon with gravity and an atmosphere. In doing so, they cause mass destruction on the Earth below. By Ted’s side during this ordeal is Codie-5, another hybrid and a genetic duplicate of Ted’s wife. Ted, Codie, and the crew must work fast and make sacrifices to save the world — and for Ted, to return to the love of his life.

Places to Find Jennifer Anne Seidler

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Giveaway!

The author is offering 1 Audible USA copy of her book, Dry Land! Hooray! To enter, answer the following question in the comments:

1) Do you have an Audible USA account?

2) If you could be an extra on a SF series or movie,  what would it be?

If you don’t sign into leave the comment with an active email address, then leave on in the comments. If you share the post, tell me in the comments and you get extra points. Contest ends Midnight, Saturday July 11th, 2015.

Interview: Paul Gilbert, Author of The Sovereign Hand

GilbertTheSovereignHandPlease welcome Paul Gilbert, author of The Sovereign Hand. He’s here to chat with us today about villains, ancient works of literature, favorite fictional worlds, and more. Enjoy!

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

Sidekicks should be whatever fits with the story. Like most things they can sit on a continuum from simple to complex. In a simple tale, a minion is usually there for one purpose – serving their master’s function. This could be providing confidence and conversation, or maybe just thugwork. A dual purpose may be a story function, in that their relationship brings out some important aspect of the hero or villain, maybe opening a plot point or an Achilles heel.

In a more complex tale, the writer may delve more into the sidekick’s inner life and background, bringing greater texture to the tale. One sidekick in “The Sovereign Hand” grew out of an off-the-cuff meeting between old friends. Then I found my “hero” going back to this character again for his “one purpose”, but it became so much more. Because they were old friends, the sidekick brought out new dimensions of my hero’s past; by lightly touching on his background, he also brought new shades of wonder and magic to my quasi-industrial setting; and because they were, or had been, equals, the sidekick became a gauge against which to measure the hero’s choices and actions. So sidekicks can tap rich veins, even without going so far as having their own storyline.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

A good question. I don’t think heroes have changed much, because the conflicts in society remain much the same. Certainly the representation of those conflicts hasn’t changed, with the hero usually facing a repellent and recognizably evil entity, whether an external power, or their own government, if a dystopia. There are variations on this theme, these days, degrees of subtlety; it is now very common to make a play at moral dilemmas about how dark the hero can go in service to the light, but the fundamental structure of stories remain the same.

That’s why in “The Sovereign Hand” I chose to use the trope of young heroes Fated to fight evil, but removed any immediate enemy or “Evil Empire”. It put greater demands on the storytelling, but, for me, raised more interesting questions. In a land of peace and progress and culture, what need for heroes?

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

I’ve still plenty to read from the Enlightenment, and a ton from Ye Olde 20th Century. There are so many, though, I just pick up what feels right at the time, especially if it feeds what I want to write. Eleanor Catton, has called reading “furnishing your mind” – after writing, the furniture has disappeared.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I don’t think there are any reboots I’ve felt strongly about – yet..

As a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

Getting published is one thing, getting “discovered” by the market is another. So keep at least half an eye set on a solid day job. Writing-wise, know what you’re expert at, whether nuclear science or abseiling or making balloon animals, and use that in your text. And daydream – imagination is top-end research.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in fiction works based on folktales, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

I would actually start by looking at some of Francisco Goya’s etchings, particularly Los Disparates (The Follies) and Los Caprichos. To me they represent the value of folk tales, and the grotesque, in one image, casting light on human nature and how the world works. What makes monsters, thrust on one side of the hero/villain divide, powerful? Then I’d go through African folk tales to the Golden Bough and Gulliver’s Travels to Candide, into modern short fiction, Kafka and George Saunders. I expect the class might be poorly attended – but I’d enjoy it!

What do you do when you are not writing?

Read, obviously, and enjoy a bit of tv and film. I game in one particular MMO, pvpin’ like a wall-eyed John McClane. Otherwise just spend time with my family, at the beach, the park, the bush. Next week I get to take my daughter to see snow for the first time.

Which favorite fictional worlds would you like to visit?

Bas Lag, Gormenghast. Sunnydale. Star Wars universe. Firefly’s ‘Verse. Actually on the Liberator with Blake’s 7 would be sweet. Y’know, all my favourite fictional worlds have some sort of ridiculous struggle going on. If I wanted an easier time, maybe I’d choose the world painted by our glossy magazines and tv. They make this earth place look nothing but fun.

GilbertTheSovereignHandThe Sovereign Hand book blurb:

Thorn, the gilded capital: bedecked in steam and the dust of convoys bearing riches from all across the earth. From here, wise and ruling hands have ensnared all Aurawn in a great story, a Primacy of Peace. A land where every person – human, gobelin, or drake – can dream, toil hard and succeed.

Of course, not everyone sees things that way. But when Alexa Temperen stands above Crucible Square and denounces the First and all his government for their injustices, the last thing she imagines is that she’ll soon be working for them, as a champion: one of the Sovereign Hand.

Because prophecy has spoken. Evil is stirring, and Alexa is just one of five unlikely heroes chosen to face it. They each have their doubts, and in her darkest moment Alexa still must decide: put pride aside and fight for a government she despises, or turn her back on her calling, leaving millions at the mercy of an unimaginable terror…

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Interview: Scott McKenzie, Author of Drawing Dead

MckenzieDrawingDeadEveryone, please welcome Scott McKenzie. I enjoyed his gambling vampire book, Drawing Dead, and you can check out that review over HERE. We chat about Scott’s day job, some of his favorite books, his earliest fanfiction (He-Man!), and much more. Enjoy!

How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

I’m heading towards 40 so I’m now in the period of my life where all new music is just a load of noise and all the good movies have already been made! Pop culture does influence my work though – I drop references to my favourite books and films into my stories, but my editor Rebecca Burruss is good at telling me when they take the reader out of the story. I guess it’s all about context. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline would be nothing without all the pop culture references, but if the same references were used in any other story, they would come across as having been shoe-horned in unnecessarily.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?

I’d have to say vampires – I’ve written a few vampire stories and I love the mythology.  I’d be sure to have a sharp stake at hand though! I’ve just finished reading book two of Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines series, so I’m sure anyone who has read those books would want to avoid the monsters in there… As for a selfie, the answer is no. I don’t do selfies, with or without beasts.

McKenzieDeathByAutopenWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I work in IT – I’m an Operations Manager for an online gaming site. It is a busy, high-pressure job where things can change at the drop of a hat. In essence, my day-to-day activities are at the opposite end of the spectrum from someone who can sit down in front of a blank screen and tap away at a keyboard for a few hours. I’ve been lucky in my professional career up to this point by the fact that I’ve mostly worked with decent people, but every now and then you run into people or systems that get in the way of you when you’re just trying to do your job. I try to channel my frustrations into my writing – bad processes and bad management are common themes in my stories. My short story “Death by Autopen” is all about someone who finds himself on the President’s kill list due to an administrative error.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

One of my favourite novels is The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. The central premise of the book – life is random so you may as well roll a pair of dice to decide your fate – would make for a great board game. However, some of the themes in the book may make it a board game for over-18s only!

McKenzieOneDayInGitmoNationIn this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I enjoy running giveaways on Goodreads and giving books away for free using Kindle Select. Every now and again I’ll set one of my books or short stories to be free in the Kindle store for a day or two. Sometimes I’ll promote the freebie and sometimes I just sit back and watch what happens. It’s a good experiment in working out the difference active promotion makes. I like meeting new people on Goodreads – it’s the best place to make friends with people who want to read the crazy stuff I’ve written. What I find most challenging is getting out of my comfort zone to promote my work. I’m an only child who likes to lock himself away in a room making stuff up!

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I wrote stories as a kid, which were usually heavily based on what I was into at the time. I can remember writing Star Wars, He-Man and Transformers stories that were probably total nonsense, but the love of filling a blank page with a story has never left me. I also loved the read-along book and cassette stories that always came out with major film releases. Anyone who was into them should check out www.readalongadventures.com

McKenzieRebirthIf I wasn’t reading, chances are I was watching films. I went to the cinema a lot when I was a kid, and I was over the moon to get Alex Hyde-White to do the narration for my first audiobook – Drawing Dead: A Tale of Poker and Vampires. He was the star of Biggles: Adventures in Time, a film I remember watching in the cinema, which I still go back to now and again.

The Desert Island Collection: what books make it into your trunk and why?

I guess it’d be a good idea to put some long books on the list in case I’m on the desert island for a long time! Here are five books I’d happily be stuck alone on a beach with:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – Classic adventure.
It by Stephen King – My favourite book by my favourite author.
Killing Floor by Lee Child – Gotta have some Jack Reacher on hand.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – The perfect feel-good story.
Twelve Grand by Jonathan Rendall – Very funny and interesting book about a journalist who was given £12,000 to gamble with and told to write a book about it.

McKenzieKrampusWhat do you do when you are not writing?

With work and family life, I get very little time to write so the answer to this one is – everything else! I have two children who I spend as much time with as possible, but they inspire my creativity. Without them, I wouldn’t have written Krampus: A Christmas Tale (http://scottamckenzie.com/Krampus.html) or hooked up with Phil Ives, who did the incredible artwork for the book. Phil and I have just started working together on another scary picture book for children. This one’s called Frankentickler

Places to Stalk Scott

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Interview: Louise Turner, Author of Fire and Sword

TurnerFireAndSwordEveryone, please welcome Louise Turner, author of the historical fiction novel Fire and Sword, which is set in the 15th century Scotland. Today we chat about Star Wars, archaeology, engineers, embarrassing moments, and much more! Make sure to check out the book blog tour hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Tours for reviews, giveaways, and more!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Oh, that’s a tough one… I’m lucky, I think, in that if really I love a movie or a book or a TV series, I can leave it for a while then go back fresh so it feels like I’m watching it for the first time all over again. But if you wanted me to pick just one, it would have to be Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. When I first saw Star Wars, I was nine years old, too young to appreciate the fact that movies just weren’t made like that, and that its opening sequence was utterly ground-breaking. Years later, watching Jurassic Park gave me a taster of what it would have been like: as I watched the small dinosaurs ‘flock’ past the actors with a tyrannosaurus in hot pursuit, I knew then that I was watching something completely new, a film that was really pushing the boundaries of cinematic technology.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

There’s a simple rule. If it clutters up the plot, it ends up on the cutting room floor. But if it’s important, it stays in. For that reason, the travel tends to be abandoned, unless something crucial happens in that time. The toilet breaks? I’ve included one or two! As for the swearing… I leave it in as required, but don’t go overboard for it, partly because I don’t think modern readers appreciate it (I don’t), and partly because once again it slows down and dilutes the dialogue. And I don’t like that.

Whether I perfectly reflect the reality of the past by doing this is, however, an interesting question. There’s a form of combative poetry called ‘flyting’ which was popular at the court of James IV, where the poets tried to fling as many swear words at each other as they could. Did this represent everyday life, or was it something extraordinary? My high-born characters only swear at moments of extreme stress – they would point out that swearing is a mark of someone who has lost control of the situation, and they really wouldn’t want to be seen in such a position of weakness.

What biographies of the creators of your favorite genres do you want to read? Are there lesser known creators that still need a biography?

I don’t really read much in the way of biographies, the only exceptions being those of important historical figures or early antiquarians/archaeologists. Biographies of modern writers and film makers leave me cold… One exception has been Hilary Mantel’s autobiographical memoir Giving up the Ghost which I found fascinating.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been reading a number of ‘classic’ works of historical fiction by the likes of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve been finding the prefaces increasingly interesting. – sometimes written by the authors themselves, sometimes written by academics, they offer a refreshing reminder that the experiences of these writers who worked way back in the 1800s weren’t entirely dissimilar from those of us who are pursuing this vocation today.

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

The list is endless. The importance of background research in recreating a convincing past world cannot be under-estimated. But the books which influenced me most during the writing of Fire & Sword were Norman MacDougall’s James IV, Jenny Wormald’s Court, Kirk and Community: Scotland 1470-1625, and Henrietta Leyser’s Medieval Women, with Stephen Boardman’s Ph.D. thesis on The Politics of the Feud in Late Medieval Scotland also meriting a Very Honourable Mention.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Intellectually, I’ve been shaped by so-called ‘post-processualist’ school of archaeology which formed the basis of my studies at university. This was influenced in turn by the sociology of Giddens and Bourdieu. I think the best way of describing this way of thinking is to take the view that, rather than seeing individuals as shaped by the physical and cultural environment in which they live, they are both constrained by this environment, while at the same time able to challenge its parameters and in due course transform this environment (again, in both the physical and the cultural sense). This thinking has been vital to the way in which I approach historical fiction – my characters are constrained by events, while at the same time, they do their best to actively influence these events and alter circumstances to their benefit. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t – the end result should mirror what actually happened in history.

But I suppose that overall my greatest influence has to have been my mother. She was an avid reader, a fan of science fiction and historical fiction, and also an extremely busy woman – she had a full time job as a Head of Department in Modern Languages at a comprehensive school, as well as being actively involved in numerous choirs and amateur operatic societies until her hectic schedule was cruelly curtailed by multiple schlerosis. She read and critiqued a very early draft of Fire & Sword but sadly passed away before it achieved publication – I’m sure she’d have been over the moon to hold it in her hand as a proper, published book.

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

A couple of years ago, my answer would have been very different, because these days I’m doing well at playing ‘catch-up!’

During the last few years I’ve read Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, Suetonius’ Twelve Caesers, and Thomas More’s Utopia, so I’m not as hopelessly ill-read as I was! But I need to read more of the (translated!!) Greek and Roman classics by the like of Plutarch and Xenephon, and closer to home, I really must read Bower’s Scotichronicon….

Please don’t be too impressed by this learned list – I can’t read any of them in Latin or Greek, or even in Middle Scots…

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 historical figures, who would you invite to the table?

Ah, what a question!

I think I’d opt for a round of claret (or equivalent) with the following historical personages: let’s have mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria for starters (hoorah for the philosophical sisterhood!), then add King James IV of Scots and Scots-born engineer Thomas Telford to the mix for good measure (Tam Telford did a spot of archaeology at Wroxeter in Shropshire once upon a time, which makes him an even more appropriate choice). I’m going to include archaeologist Harriet Boyd Hawes to the group, then for my final choice I’ll include John, 1st Lord Sempill (John Sempill of Ellestoun, featured in my novel), because I think he’d really enjoy the discussion and debate.

James IV would probably steal the show, flirting with Hypatia and discussing engineering with Thomas Telford (who would no doubt offer, for a healthy fee, to redesign the entire roads network of mainland Scotland and build King James a fine set of naval dockyards and canals for good measure), while Harriet Boyd Hawes and myself could talk archaeology and watch chaos unfold all around us…

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Eek! Time for an embarrassing confession…

Okay, I think this is best described as an anti-fangirl moment, for reasons which will become clear in a moment. Way back in the late 1980s, I was awarded first prize in the Glasgow Herald New Writing in Science Fiction short story competition for a story I wrote called Busman’s Holiday. The prize was presented on my 20th birthday, by a woman science fiction writer I’d never heard of called C J Cherryh.

It was only afterwards that I gave Ms Cherryh’s books a try. And I was hooked. Seriously hooked. I thought her science fiction was awesome, and yes, I don’t deny it. In the end, reading her work influenced the way I approached my writing, and in particular the way I write historical fiction.

I still have a photo that was taken that night – to this day, I don’t know whether to be terribly excited or terribly proud, or terribly ashamed about the events of that evening. Because she congratulated me! She toasted my success!! And I didn’t even have any clue about just how amazing that was until much, much later in my life.

There. Is that awkward enough for you??? I’m cringing at the recollection even now…

Places to Stalk Louise Turner

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Interview: Gabi Stevens, Author of The Wish List

StevensTheWishListEveryone, please welcome Gabi Stevens to the blog today. She is the author of the Time of Transition series. She also writes under the name Gabi Anderson (Destiny Coin series) and G. S. Anderson (Preternatural). Today we discuss Harry Potter and Cinderella, Star Wars I and backstory, game shows, reboots versus retellings, and plenty more!

Who are your non-writer influences?

Dare I be cliché and say my family? Okay, now that that’s behind us . . . I have to thank the teachers in my life who taught me how to think and dream, especially in high school. I went to boarding school and not only did those teachers see us in the classroom, but they also lived with us on campus. We ate meals with them, I babysat their children, etc. They introduced me to Sci Fi and Fantasy novels.

StevensAsYouWishWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Ooo, confession time. I haven’t read Dickens. I know. Shocking. But I will, one day. I’ve really never read Hemmingway, but I know the plots, and I just don’t want to. Okay, I have read The Old Man and the Sea, but none of the others. Steinbeck is another author I’ve never read. I tried to read The Red Pony once, but, well, no. I only kick myself for the Dickens. I haven’t read all of The Canterbury Tales or any of Beowulf, but I can claim to have read part of The Aeneid in Latin, as well as some Livy, Tacitus, and Palutus’s Menaechmi. And I can claim Faust, parts one and two in German. (Too much bragging?)

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

If you subscribe to the Joseph Campbell school of thought, there is only one story, so essentially every story is a reboot. That said, I loved Harry Potter (books more than movies, although I loved the movies too), which is essentially Cinderella. I myself have written a couple of Beauty and the Beast stories (one of my favorites). If you can’t tell, I love fairy tales (must be my German Lit background). I enjoy most of the new retellings of them–although no one has ever tackled my favorite, King Thrushbeard (or Grislybeard, as some have translated it, although the point of Thrushbeard is that the king’s beard looks like the beak of a bird).

StevensWishfulThinkingI’m not as fond of reboots. If it was good before, why remake it? Psycho? Really? And not enough time has passed to reboot some of the series (Could be that I’m just old). Dare I confess I haven’t seen the new Spiderman reboots? Planet of the Apes? Mad Max, ignoring the modern incarnation of Mel Gibson, is pretty awesome already. So what if it’s dated. That’s part of its charm. And clearly, the new one is not out yet, but did we really need a new one? There are so many untouched stories out there, why remake something that’s already been done and done well? But of course there are exceptions. I can’t wait for a good Hulk movie. And (I know this is controversial) I do like the reboot of Star Trek (but I loved the old series). But if they have to reboot, why not pick the really old stuff, like the Thin Man series. But my favorite is the reboot of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock (huge fan of this reboot).

There is this rumor that you have been on a few game shows – an experience worth repeating? What would your favorite characters from your own writing be like on a game show?

I have indeed. I was on the Family Feud with the women in my family when Richard Dawson was the host. We won twice then lost the third time, but only won the “Big Money” once. So many tales to tell from that experience, especially since two of our members had heavy Hungarian accents.

Then I appeared on Sale of the Century, and lost it in a tiebreaker because they said tiebreakers would be hard questions– it was easy, and by the time I thought, “But that’s easy,” the other guy had answered.

AndersonTemptation'sWarriorBut my favorite was on Jeopardy, where I came in third, but won the best set of pots and pans ever. No, seriously, they will be handed down to my children, the quality is that good. And I was doing great until Final Jeopardy. To myself I was chanting, “Don’t be US presidents, don’t be US Presidents”, and up pops the category: US Presidents. Man, the day before (because you watch several tapings while you wait) no one got the Final Jeopardy question right (What does Alice cross in “Through the Looking Glass?), and I was sitting in the audience screaming to myself because I knew it. My question: The last surviving president to have signed the US Constitution. Really?

So if my characters would be on game shows my characters, Tennyson Ritter, hero of THE WISH LIST, would do awesome on something like Jeopardy, but horrible on something like Family Feud. He’s got brains, but he just doesn’t have the exposure to the real world to answer questions about how other people would answer. Jonathan Bastion, hero of AS YOU WISH, is too savvy a businessman not to know how people respond to things, so Family Feud would be his game. And Hyacinth, one of the Fairy Godmothers who appear in the entire trilogy, couldn’t be bothered to do something like a game show. She would probably watch them and mock the contestants that appeared on them.

What is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th) is my favorite, closely followed by May the Fourth (Star Wars day!).

AndersonFalconAndWolfHow did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

That was fun. I bought my daughters little tokens—one got a Pocket Dragon (porcelain figurine) reading a book, one got items for her Josefina doll, and I just can’t remember what I got the youngest. I bought my husband a ping pong table, which has since gone the way of the dinosaur. For myself, I bought a tiny Swarovski crystal inkwell with gold quill. When I got the call my husband was in the air, flying to Britain, so I had to leave a message at his hotel to call me as soon as he arrived with the words, “Good news” so he wouldn’t panic upon arrival. My two oldest daughters jumped up and down, and my youngest just looked up at me and said, “Chocolate milk.” Way to bring me down to reality quickly, but she was only four.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Edgar Allan Poe, L. Frank Baum, and Agatha Christie. But I would order for them–tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa, margaritas, green chile, and sopapillas. They need to be exposed to the food from where I’m from. Especially the margaritas. Can you imagine the conversation we could have after a couple?

AndersonEverYoursIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

How about for your 8th grade students?

I already did give my eighth graders SFF literature. Not only did we read a bunch of short stories—Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” “There Will Come Soft Rains”; Asimov’s Nightfall; Stephen Vincent Benet’s By the Waters of Babylon; but we also read the entire I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

As for college, here is my list of must reads: Stranger in a Strange Land, The Stars My Destination, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Martian Chronicles, The Foundation Series, The Lord of the Rings, Doomsday Book, Lord Foul’s Bane,…I know I’ve forgotten a ton.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

When isn’t such a moment awkward? When I’m the one doing the gushing, I figure I’m bothering the author. I had a chance to meet Brent Weeks last year and his wife and their little girl and all I could talk about was child rearing. And when someone gushes to me, I always wonder why? I’m not that good (did you know that most writers are terribly insecure).

AndersonPreternaturalWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

When my husband and I watched Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, we spent two hours discussing the movie at the end. We are both huge Star Wars fans (the original series, and Han shot first) and we didn’t like it. What it boiled down to for me was it was all backstory. As a writer you’re taught not to dump backstory on the reader. Yes, you give hints to what happened in the past, but unless it’s relevant, you don’t need backstory. SW I, II, and III are all backstory. I didn’t need to know why Anakin turned bad. I already knew he had and that he was redeemed. Funny, considering I usually like spoilers, but the difference between spoilers and backstory is huge.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am currently working on shopping around my first pure fantasy novel. I’ll keep you posted. In addition, I’ve got a story collection, Preternatural, on Kindle and Nook under the name GS Anderson, which is receiving some great reviews (Phew). Look for me and news about me at my web site: www.GabiStevens.com. You can also find me at Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

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Interview: David Lee Summers, Author of Lightning Wolves

SummersLightningWolvesFolks, please welcome David Lee Summers to the blog once again. He’s previously gifted me with a bit of his time in this other interview. Today we chat about fairy tales, Star Wars, Cherie Priest’s works, awkward fan moments, and question over the correct use of the term ‘parsec’. I had quite a bit of fun in reading through David’s answers and I expect you’ll be as entertained as I am.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

One of my favorite poetry collections is Jean Hull Herman‘s Jerry Springer as Bulfinch or Mythology Modernized. Throughout her collection, Ms. Herman recounts stories of Greek myth and recounts similar episodes from the Jerry Springer Show. It all goes to show that we not only project our hopes and aspirations into our myths, we also reflect who we are as human beings on our myths and sometimes we don’t always come off in the best light.

No matter what genre a writer tackles, they’re going to react to those things around them. Now a science fiction writer might either add some wish fulfillment and create the world she hopes will come about, or she might create the world she fears. The same is true for fantasy. We’ll raise up our better selves in the form of heroes and noble creatures while also dashing ourselves through villains and monsters. In answer to your question, I think modern fantasy fiction simply gives us a lens by which to view the modern world and attempt to make the best choices as human beings. A century from now, people will look at our fantasy in much the same way as we look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as a window into past times.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The fantastical beasts of fiction I would most like to encounter would be any Maurice Sendak‘s wild things of Where the Wild Things Are. They look vicious, but really, all they want to do is play and I could be their king by simply being fierce at them.

Although I love dragons and gryphons and would love to see one from a safe distance, I’d probably also want to avoid them at all costs because I’m not sure there would be a safe distance.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I would love to see a PC game based on Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century novels. It would be fun to see a lot of the different locations and situations visualized. It could be done as a quest game with different objectives. I’d love to campaign through her alternate Seattle underground, or aboard the speeding train of Dreadnaught, or through the streets and swamps of her steampunked New Orleans from Ganymede. For my part, I would like to play the part of airship pirate captain Andan Cly, but there are plenty of great characters that a player could choose to be in this world.

SummersOwlDanceWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

One of the go-to books in my personal library is The Atlas of Past Times. It was a book I found on remainder on a shelf outside a bookstore, but I find it a great quick reference when I’m checking where boundaries were at a given point in history or who was in charge of what, which can then point me to other historical reference materials. This is very useful if I’m working on a historical story, alternate or otherwise. It also reminds me about how fast boundaries have changed in human history.

In general, I think the most useful books for building cultures are collections of folk tales. I’ve used Grimm’s Fairy Tales, American Indian Myths and Legends by Erdoes and Ortiz, and Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers. There are also a lot of good projects where people have collected folktales on the web. These tell you a lot about people’s hopes and fears, their morality, and their taboos. Reading folk tales along with books from other times and places can open your mind and help you consider what future or fantastic cultures might be like.

NASA has many great online resources not only for their discoveries, but the spacecraft and vehicles that made them. This can be helpful when you’re thinking about how vehicles work in space. Plus, they often give you references for places to look for more information.

The way I approach any story at the beginning is to think about what building blocks I need for the story. Will I need to know about a certain region of the world? Do I want to build a culture that’s analogous to a culture that has existed? Sometimes I have books that will help answer those questions in my library. If not, I’ll go to the online card catalog for the local library and see what kinds of books they have on those subjects.

SummersTheSlayersWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Paradise Lost by John Milton is one I’ve always wanted to sit down and work my way through because it inspired so much of the modern lore about angels and demons—things people think are Biblical but aren’t. I’d also love to read the Iliad and the Odyssey all the way through. I’ve read large chunks of the latter, but it’s been a long time. On a somewhat lighter note, I’ve been looking for a good translation of Jules Verne‘s ‘Round the Moon, the sequel to From the Earth to the Moon. Verne ends the first book on a cliffhanger, with his crew going to the moon, but we don’t find out what happens until the second book and I haven’t tracked down a copy yet!

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have others dressed up as characters from your books?

In fact the outfit I often wear to steampunk events is inspired by the clothes I describe for the inventor, Professor Maravilla in Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves. It’s a cravat, brightly colored waistcoat, and tailcoat. The bounty hunter, Larissa Crimson, was created by my daughter as her steampunk persona for events. As it turns out, she appears as Larissa on the cover of Lightning Wolves.

So far, I haven’t encountered anyone outside my family dressed up as a character from my books, but I’d be absolutely delighted if they did. They’d get a free book and I’d have to take a picture with them!

SummersSolarSeaIf you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

I would start with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. After all, she pretty much invented both modern science fiction and horror with Frankenstein. Next would be Arthur Conan Doyle. It would be great to meet the man behind Sherlock Holmes and see if I could get him to recount stories of some of his famous hoaxes. Another British author of the period who would be fun to have at this table would be D.H. Lawrence, to discuss both poetry and his perspective on northern New Mexico at the time my grandparents were doing their best to make a life there. Leigh Brackett would have to be on the list for both her role in early pulp science fiction, but for a Hollywood writing career that ranged from working with Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, to John Wayne in Rio Bravo, and finishing with the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. With Leigh Brackett there, I would have to invite Ray Bradbury. Even though I got to meet him before he died, there are so many more things we could talk about and discuss now than when I met him in the early days of my career.

Who knows what they would order if left to their own devices, but with three people from England and two of them from the late Victorian period, I’d be inclined to invite them over to a sumptuous holiday meal of turkey and all the trimmings. If I were preparing it, it would be a smoked turkey with mole sauce on the side. I’d make sure there was plenty of wine and beer available. The one time I was with Ray Bradbury that he ordered something, it was a Heineken.

SummersDragon'sFallIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

The hard part of this question is that a college semester is only going to have limited time and you can’t read all the greatest, best, or the most influential works. My inclination would be to use Frankenstein to discuss science fiction’s beginning as cautionary, morality tale. I would move on to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to discuss the rise of science fiction as an optimistic genre. Starship Troopers would probably serve as classic military, hero-driven science fiction and as a jumping off point for the role of politics in science fiction. Dune would probably come next to show a continuation of the heroic saga, but subverted by the sensitivity of ecology and drug culture at the time it was produced. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester would probably come in there, too, to show how heroic science fiction could be completely subverted, allowing for the rise of cyberpunk and other genres. A novel like Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl would serve to show the return to science fiction as cautionary tale, the introduction of steampunk and a jumping off place for a discussion of the future.

Lots of other books would certainly be mentioned, if not substituted for these. Certainly Ray Bradbury’s novels and stories would be discussed. Lois McMaster Bujold and the Miles Vorsagian novels would be good examples of character and plot almost becoming primary to any particular science fictional element. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could come in as part of a discussion on the role of humor in science fiction. So many books so little time!

SummersRevolutionOfAirAndRustCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

It was more cool than awkward, but last year at Phoenix Comicon, a fellow bought a copy of Revolution of Air and Rust. He was nice enough, but said he’d read it over and let me know what he thought. The next day, he came back to the table with one of his friends and he immediately bought Owl Dance and told his friend, he absolutely had to buy Revolution of Air and Rust. “That’s one of the best things I’ve read.” That just made my day.

As for awkward fanboy moments on my part, I went to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on the day of release with friends of mine from across town. We were all in high school at the time. They introduced me to their friend Jan Bixby. We were having a great time in line talking Star Trek, science fiction, and generally geeking out when an older man built like a bantam rooster with hair that looked like it put combs in their place walked up and had a few words with Jan. One of my friends pulled him aside and introduced me to him. “This is Jan’s dad, Jerome.” I shook his hand, then said something like “Pleased to meet you, sir”, then he went on his way. A beat or two later, I put it together. Jan Bixby’s dad was Jerome Bixby, the author of such original Star Trek episodes as “Mirror, Mirror” and “Requiem for Methuselah” plus the great, great horror story “It’s a Good Life” which was made into a Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy. I think I was speechless and muttering incoherent syllables for a while afterward. One of my friends had to point out in typical high school fashion, “Yeah, but he’s just Jan’s dad.”

SummersSpaceHorrorsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

One argument that seems to crop up from time to time is whether or not soft science fiction has any value influencing scientists. For example, someone might point to the infamous line from Star Wars where Han Solo says the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” In the context of the movie, it’s clear he’s referring to parsecs as a unit of time, when in fact, they’re a distance that was initially based on the size of an arcsecond of angle on the sky. The claim is often made that not only is this bad science, it’s going to lead kids away from the sciences and we’re going to raise a generation of idiots. Therefore, this kind of terrible science needs to be eliminated from science fiction at all costs.

However, most astronomers I’ve known have gone into science precisely because soft science fiction got them thinking about the adventure of space at an early age. Carl Sagan famously fell in love with Mars because of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who got almost everything wrong about Mars. I’ve known generations of scientists who got interested in science because of both Star Wars and Star Trek. In my case, I remember hearing Han Solo’s line from Star Wars and wondering what a parsec was. Was it anything real? When I looked it up, I found out they got it wrong. So what? I still loved the adventure of Star Wars, but I have to admit, I felt a little bit superior to the writers of Episode IV. A whole new world opened up to me and I started looking up even more stuff.

So my side of the argument usually runs something like this: Science fiction influences scientists not because it’s right but because it’s fun. Sure as writers, we should do our best to get it right, but it’s the fun that makes people care. I’ve yet to meet anyone who stopped having an interest in science because George Lucas didn’t know what a parsec was.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

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David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

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