Category Archives: space travel

As promised – here is the shiny new cover for Dying for Space!

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As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago – I now have a new cover for Dying for Space. But in addition to the revamped face where Lizzy is clearly not dead OR inappropriately enjoying herself – there is an exploding spaceship!

Getting the cover right for this series has been something of a journey – and now that Running Out of Space is finally on track, it’s great to be able to offer the companion cover for the Dying for Space in the Sunblinded series. If you missed the free offer for Running Out of Space and would like to give it a go without risking your hardearned cash, it is now available here for free via Instafreebie.

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Cover reveal – Dying for Space – shiny, new and more appealing!

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As you may know, I changed the covers for the first two books in the Sunblinded trilogy. Immediately, I noticed an improvement in my sales for Running Out of Space. However, as we sat down and looked at the last six months, cover maven, Mhairi and I realised that the new cover for Dying for Space had absolutely no impact. Not a single person felt drawn to buy it after the initial flurry died down after the book launch blog tour.

 

I wondered whether this one looked a bit ‘death mask’ and that was putting off potential readers, given the title is Dying for Space. Mhairi speculated that with the pink tint and her closed eyes, Lizzy looked as though she was… um… having a very nice time. And as I haven’t been targetting a readership interested in erotic fiction in space, Mhairi thought the possibility might be disuading readers from giving this one a go.

 

So she’s come up with this one, instead. It definitely still has the same branding as the first book, with the advantage that Lizzy is clearly alive if a tad pensive – and there is no possibility that this can mistaken for anything other than a space opera adventure featuring a heroine, whose action scenes take place outside the bedroom… This one is going live on Thursday, but I thought I’d share it with you all, first.

Do let me know what you think!

Friday Faceoff – It’s a family affair…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a cover featuring a family, so I’ve selected The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein.

 

This audio edition was produced by Full Cast Audio in February 2005. It’s a spacescape so I really like it – the character in the forefront being upside down is nicely dramatic. However, she looks rather bored by the whole business and as they are clearly performing some sort of maintenance task on the outside of the ship, I doubt if she would ever get to a stage where it would be quite so tedious to be floating at the end of a tether outside the ship. And I loathe the nasty strip along the bottom of the cover which is completely unnecessary, given this is a relatively modern design.

 

Published in February 1978 by Del Rey Books, I much prefer this version. There is plenty of drama as the twins are rushing around the spaceship, trying to gather up all these tribble-like creatures. I also think the font is rather funky and attractive, contrasting well with the bright interior of their ship. This one is my favourite, though I don’t like all the chatter cluttering up the author and title.

 

This edition, published by Baen in March 2009, has by contrast a rather generic feel. It is clearly part of the house style, with the classic Baen fonts for the title and author, along with the obligatory spacescape. The trouble is that this scene could be any old ship with a couple of suited figures, who don’t particularly look as though they are part of a family unit.

 

This edition, produced by Ace in November 1970 definitely has a retro feel – that rocket and those suits are more reminiscent of the 1950s, when this book first hit the shelves. However, there is no sense that the crew are a family. While the orange font certainly pops, it is rather flat, again underlining the period feel of this cover. There is rather too much chat, again, spoiling the effect.

 

This Czech cover was published in 2003. I have a really soft spot for this one. The angle of the ship with the two suited figures working on it draws the eye onto the attractive and eye-catching title font. I also love the touch of having the title on the ship. This is a close contender for the top spot for me – but what about you? Which is your favourite?

Review of Indie Ebook Queen of Chaos – Book 3 of the Sequoyah trilogy by Sabina Chase

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I picked up this offering on Himself’s recommendation as he knew I was on the lookout for well-written, entertaining space opera adventures that didn’t necessarily feature a lot of romance.

The exciting conclusion to the Sequoyah trilogy.

And that’s the blurb. Really. I can fully understand why Chase hasn’t included anything else as the story spans the complete trilogy and I don’t think there is much she could add without lurching into spoiler territory. A warning – if you did crash midway into this series, I don’t think you could ever fully work out the complete backstory or who was doing what to whom. Given it is such a treat, the only sensible approach is to start with the first book, The Long Way Home. Consequently, I will not be discussing much of the plot points. But I will add that the story follows the fortunes of Moire and the best way to give an idea of what is going on is at this stage to provide the blurb for the first book…

Webspace pilot Moire Cameron is one of the best–but even she can’t fly her way out of a catastrophic drive failure that triggers a time-dilation bubble. Left suddenly eighty years out of date, she is on the run in a world she no longer knows, caught in the middle of a human-alien war while agents of Toren hunt her for the information only she has–the location of the pristine world of Sequoyah.

This is the starting point – Moire is not only struggling to cope with a future world where the customs and technology have dramatically altered, she is also in possession of information wanted by nearly every major powerbroker in the galaxy. This puts a huge target on her back – and the trilogy provides the story of what happens next.

Of course, if she isn’t likeable, there wouldn’t be much tension. I found myself warming to her very quickly. She is highly trained to cope in emergencies and that training is giving a thorough workout as she ricochets from one crisis to another. Her adventures include tangling with the secret service; being involved in a number of firefights; rescuing some lost souls; involved in a major salvage operation and tripping over an alien in an unexpected place – and that’s only some of what happens… We also get to know the cast of characters who she encounters on her adventures, some of whom become her companions.

Chase has the knack of writing appealing, memorable characters who I quickly bonded with, so whenever they were in danger, I found I really minded. As the dangers piled up and the stakes grew ever higher throughout the three books, I did wonder how the third book would be able to resolve everything. To be honest, I have slightly delayed picking this one up in case the ending didn’t live up to the rest of the series. I needn’t have worried. Chase is clearly capable of delivering and Queen of Chaos manages to successfully keep the action moving forward at a good clip right until the exciting denouement.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one – it is the triumphant conclusion to an excellent space opera trilogy and I thoroughly recommend it.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall

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The cool cover immediately caught my eye and I know Himself has enjoyed the Schooled in Magic series, so I decided to give it a go.

A year after the Commonwealth won the war with the Theocracy, the interstellar cruise liner Supreme is on its maiden voyage, carrying a host of aristocrats thrilled to be sharing in a wondrous adventure among the stars. The passengers include the owner and his daughters, Angela and Nancy. Growing up with all the luxuries in the world, neither sister has ever known true struggle, but that all changes when Supreme comes under attack…

I am not going to continue further with the blurb as it gets a bit chatty – suffice to say events all slide away very rapidly. I really enjoyed this one, but if you are looking for foot-to-the-floor action from the first page, then this one isn’t for you. This is very much a gradual buildup where we get to know several members of the crew, including the captain, as well as the other main character, Angela, who is the owner’s eldest daughter. She is an interesting character as she isn’t particularly likeable, being rather spoiled and self-entitled which is in stark contrast to the two stewards we get to know who are working flatout to get the ship ready for the rich, demanding passengers. That said, I don’t particularly envy Angela either, despite her wealth, as it comes with major strings that she only begins to realise during the voyage.

Despite the slow build, I wasn’t remotely tempted to pull away as I found all the everyday details and worldbuilding around the rhythms of the ship fascinating. I particularly liked the long-suffering captain who is more used to serving with the military and is finding working with the civilian crew pandering to the needs of wealthy passengers a very steep learning curve.

When it all hits the fan and chaos ensues, I felt the long lead-up paid dividends as I was completely invested in a number of characters and genuinely cared about their fate. There were one or two characters who I would have liked to see more of – particularly young Nancy, although I am very much hoping this is going to be the start of a new series. In which case, perhaps she will feature in another book. Once the action kicks off, the nasty surprises just keep on coming as the hapless crew and passengers are assailed on all sides by a truly terrifying force. The climax is every bit as exciting and unexpected as you would want, with an intriguing twist that allows for this book to be the start of a new, enjoyable series.

This one is recommended for space opera fans who enjoy spaceship-centred stories. While I obtained an arc of The Hyperspace Trap from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Review of Indie Ebook Raven’s Children – Book 2 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase

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I loved the first book in this series and while I generally like to space out reading a series so I don’t lock onto an author’s writing tics, this time around I couldn’t wait so dived back into this book.

Moire Cameron, former NASA explorer and web pilot, now has a working ship, a loyal crew, an unexpected son, and a valuable Earthlike planet to protect from the clutches of Toren. However, her enemies won’t give up – and then, there’s the children…

I’ve cut short the rather chatty blurb and my advice is not to read it as it gives away far too much of the storyline. Moire is a strong protagonist, though this book doesn’t focus quite so much on her storyline as there is a lot going on around her. I love the fact that Chase drives forward the story, crackling with action and tension. If there is any grizzle, it is perhaps Moire’s character is slightly swamped by everything happening around her as events continue to teeter on the edge of disaster. There are moments when it would have been nice to slow down just a tad to fully appreciate how all the changes carrying on around her are fully impacting upon her. That said, it is a really picky point and is only engendered by my love for the character. As for the relationships around Moire – while she is rebuilding her life in this new world, she hasn’t the luxury of spending much time and energy to lavish on the people who she cares about. Apart from anything else, she is terrified of dragging them into the danger she is in.

I really enjoyed the way the story unfolds and the constant suspense and surprises that Chase manages to deliver. Some of the plot progression I could see coming – but a whole lot more caught me unawares and I enjoyed sinking into the rhythm of the story and going with the flow. The supporting cast around Moire also continue to develop, helping to power the story. The most intriguing plot thread concerns one of the salvage ships they find drifting, damaged and abandoned – and this particular discovery overrides all other concerns. This is cleverly handled by Chase, whose worldbuilding is very effective and is one of her strengths in this engrossing series. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the final book in the trilogy.

All in all, this book ended far too quickly and I can guarantee that it won’t be long before I also dive into the final book, Queen of Chaos, to find out how Chase wraps up this story. Recommended for fans of character-led space opera with a strong story.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 13th February, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Queen of Chaos – Book 3 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase

67% “This isn’t the main entrance. You need to go back out and down about half a klick,” a voice said on the intercom.
“I can’t—I’m out of air. Look, I’m real sorry but it’s only my second day on the job and the foreman sent me to the ridge to do some system checks and I got the craters mixed up. I can’t get back.” Enver had seen a fairly large installation near this crater, so that seemed reasonable. He hoped they wouldn’t be suspicious and ask questions he couldn’t answer, like the name of the company that ran it.

BLURB: The exciting conclusion to the Sequoyah trilogy.

Back into space – and how’s that for a short, snappy blurb? This trilogy runs straight from one book to the other and really needs to be read in order. And it’s definitely worth it. Action-packed, with an interesting premise and very well written. I will be reading more of Chase’s work, that’s for sure…

Review for Running Out Of Space (Sunblinded: 1) by S. J. Higbee

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I was delighted to get this review from Donna – particularly as she didn’t pick up the book feeling especially enthusiastic about it, but then got drawn into Lizzy’s problems, anyway. Thank you Donna, for an honest review:)

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I can’t recall whose idea it was. Just that me and mis amigas were sick of wading through yet another unjust punishment detail. So we decide to take ourselves off on a short jaunt to the lower reaches of Space Station Hawking to prove that fertile Iberian girls can also deal with danger.

The consequences of that single expedition change the lives of all four of us, as well as that of the stranger who steps in to save us down in lawless Basement Level. Now I have more excitement and danger than I can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.

BUY IT FROM AMAZON HERE      ADD IT TO GOODREADS HERE

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When I first started reading this I found it kind of hard to connect and get involved in the story. It was slow going. But, I have to say this may be…

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My Outstanding Books of 2017

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Last year was yet another bumper year for reading, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. As usual, I’ll list the ones that stood out for me – and we’re not talking a top ten. I completed 174 books last year, but won’t go into too much detail in this article about my overall 2017 reading experience, as today it’s all about those that gave me the tingle factor. Most will have received a perfect ten on my scoring system, however there will be a couple that didn’t. The reason they are here is because that after I’d finished reading and writing about them, they didn’t go away, but continued to linger in my thoughts. So here they are, in no particular order:-

 

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash

This godpunk duology set within the Japanese pantheon centres around a beautiful, dark-edged myth. Ash’s lyrical prose and deft handling of this tale has stayed with me throughout the year, despite having read it last January. See my review here.

 

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

I absolutely fell in love with this haunting retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While I enjoyed and admired Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed – another strong contender – this one stole my heart. The ending gave me goosebumps, while making me weep. That doesn’t happen very often. See my review here.

 

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Planetfall, this one blew me away. The characterisation, the horrible situation the protagonist finds himself in – it all got under my skin to the extent that I woke my husband up as I yelled in shock at a particular point in the book. I can’t wait to see where Newman goes next with this amazing series. See my review here.

 

Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

This depiction of an existence on the Moon where rampant capitalism holds sway hasn’t left me alone since I read this one. McDonald has called it ‘A game of domes’ and he certainly has nailed the deadly powerplays the main families indulge in with his reference to George R.R. Martin’s epic. I keep thinking about that ending… See my review here.

 

Winter Tide – Book 1 of the Innesmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys

This book was a delightful surprise – I had no idea the writing would pull me into this version of Lovecraft’s monstrous world, with a strong, sympathetic protagonist who is one of the few survivors of the attack on Innesmouth years ago. I loved it and am very much looking forward to reading more in this fantastic series. See my review here.

 

The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Knights of the Borrowed Dark, finding Rudden’s punchy prose style both enjoyable and memorable. But this sequel builds on the first with an engrossing adventure and some amazing characters. It’s far too good to leave just for the children. See my review here.

 

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

I have thoroughly enjoyed all Edwards’ books – but this managed to nock up the stakes to a point I could not put it down until I’d finished reading it. I have rules about never reading or watching TV until after 5.30 pm – otherwise I’d never get anything done. I broke that rule for this book. See my review here.

 

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

This is a new spinoff series by a much-loved author which I was delighted to read – even better, it was a storming adventure that proved to be an engrossing page-turner. I remembered all over again why I love reading this author. See my review here.

 

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

No one writes different aliens as well as Greg Egan – and I loved this adventure. I’m very much hoping it turns into a series as I would love to spend more time following the fortunes of these amazing creatures. See my review here.

 

The Lost Steersman – Book 3 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

This is a series I read longer ago than I care to recall – and when I saw it had appeared in Kindle, I snapped it up and reread it, something I hardly ever do. My instincts were spot on – I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this engrossing world and following Rowena’s adventures in this smart, cleverly written fantasy/science fiction mashup. This is the particular story that has stayed with me, though the other books in the series are just as good. See my review here.

 

Heir to the North – Book 1 of Malessar’s Curse by Steven Poore

This epic fantasy got under my skin and into my heart in a way that doesn’t often happen with this genre. I loved the clever, clever twist at the end and one of the treats in 2018 is to tuck into the sequel, The High King’s Vengeance. See my review here.

 

Sea of Rust by Robert C. Cargill

This was another amazing book that came out of the blue – I’d not read anything by this author before and was delighted by this post-apocalyptic world peopled by robots who are starting to wear out and fail. With no factories or warehouses full of spare parts anymore, the only option is to harvest those parts from other robots. See my review here.

 

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

I’ve read a number of apocalyptic tales during the year, however in this version Walker triumphantly succeeds in giving us a dog’s version of a complete collapse in law and order. And the chilling results of what happens when that order is reimposed by the wrong people. See my review here.

 

Empire of Dust – Book 1 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Beford

This epic science fiction adventure stood out because of the flawed protagonist and the gritty depiction of establishing a colony. I really enjoyed the world and the fact that love clearly doesn’t cure all. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author. See my review here.

 

The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

After her marvellous series How To Train Your Dragon, I was interested to see how she would follow it up. The writing is more lyrical, the underlying poignancy is more pronounced. My elderly Kindle didn’t like the illustrations throughout this book and part of my Christmas money is going on buying a print version of this book. Not for the grandchildren – for me. See my review here.

 

Whirligig: Keeping the Promise – Book 1 of Shire’s Union by Richard Buxton

I have to declare an interest – Richard is a former student and I had read some extracts from a very early draft. However that did not prepare me for the excellence of the writing, where this historical adventure finds two young English people from the same small village ending up in America during the Civil War. They are both caught in quite different ways and this story just kept on delivering in terms of plot twists and tension. See my review here.

 

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

This doorstopper is extraordinary. Don’t ask me what the storyline is – other than recalling there are five main protagonists with very different and vivid voices, it’s too complicated to recall. What I do remember is that very early on I took the decision to slow right down and savour this book as reads like this don’t come along all that often. It took me 10 days to get through this one and I recall feeling sad when it came to the end. See my review here.

To pare the list down to this required setting aside other books that still hurt to leave out – the likes of Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett, Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory, The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, The Invisible Library books by Genevieve Cogman and The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews all missed making this list by a whisker. If you force to me to choose just one of these books, I’ll probably never forgive you, but it would have to be After Atlas.

What were your outstanding reads of the year?

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – How Did I Do?

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. How well did I do in meeting these targets?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest after receiving excellent advice on how to improve the storyline.
I finally managed to get this rewritten, including a change in the point of view from first person to third person, and sent back during the summer. In the beginning of August, I got another long, detailed email listing the main problem areas where I could further improve it. So far I haven’t managed to get to it – but it is high on my list for early 2018.

• Edit Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I duly tightened up Dying for Space to my satisfaction, but although I had another go at Breathing Space, I’m still not completely happy with the narrative arc and plan to have a drastic pruning session to see if I can smooth out the pacing in the first third of the book, before publishing it in summer 2018.

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Elizabeth Wright, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy.
Nope. Didn’t get close to this one as I was tied up with the rewrites of Miranda’s Tempest and later in the year, I also made a drastic change to Running Out of Space and Dying for Space ridiculously close to the publication date which further messed up my writing schedule. So this is another major task that needs to be completed in 2018 if I am to sustain my self-publishing schedule.

• Complete Picky Eaters
And this is another project that didn’t see the light of day and one I intend to get completed during 2018. Apart from anything else, the grandchildren are keen for this one to be published and given my other books aren’t age appropriate, I’d really like to get it out there for them.

• Continue submitting my work
My more professional approach to the submission process paid dividends as in January 2017 I was offered a contract for Netted by Grimbold Publishing. I am thrilled – they are a small outfit, but so passionate about the books they publish. They are like a family, with a strong and continuing interest in the authors they work with and I have huge respect for the quality of the work they release. Netted is due to be published in 2019.

In addition, I was asked to submit a short story to be included in a Grimbold Publishing anthology Holding On By Our Fingertips. I was delighted when ‘A Dire Emergency’ was accepted and will be published alongside a number of excellent writers in the first half of 2018.

• Self publish a novel
And in October, I finally released Running Out of Space. It has garnered a few reviews, all positive and in December I published the sequel, Dying for Space. I am thrilled every time someone drops me a line to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the books. I’m guessing that is an emotion that never gets old.

 

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
This year I read 175 books and wrote 162 reviews, though not all of them have been published yet. I have now got my act together regarding Netgalley arcs and throughout most of 2017 I have managed to achieve an 80% feedback ratio. In another post, I will further discuss the books I read in 2017. I’m really pleased I have managed to sustain my reading and blogging as I thoroughly enjoy being involved in the lovely #bookbloggers community, discussing books I’ve read and swapping recommendations.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I am delighted that since the merger with Brighton Metropolitan College last year, the Adult Learning Dept at Northbrook has had a new lease of life. My Creative Writing classes this last year have all been successful and well attended. I’m really pleased, because this is the loveliest teaching job on the planet – teaching a subject I love to the nicest bunch of folks you could wish to meet.

• Continue teaching TW
What an amazing year! We were quite daunted at the start of the year as trying to find a suitable syllabus that would be a good fit for Tim’s specific abilities was a major challenge. And once we found the subjects, we then had a battle getting hold of past papers and a suitably extensive teaching programme as despite the fact Tim is fully funded by County, we weren’t formally recognised as an official learning centre. However, it all fell into place in time for Tim to take and pass a couple of music and singing exams, which he passed with flying colours. He also passed his first formal English exam with a very high percentage. And in March we took the decision to film the script he had been working on for the previous three months – and it turned into a whirlwind…

By the end of November, we had all thirteen songs professionally recorded in a studio and the filming completed – with a cast of twenty-three, shot in a variety of locations, including Bognor pier, the museum, a shop and a local college. Tim repeatedly was pushed beyond his comfort zone as he had to respond to a number of deadlines and react to unexpected problems. He is now in the throes of editing it with the help of the videographer and we are hoping it will be ready to be shown at a local cinema sometime in the summer. I still can’t quite believe we managed it…

• Continue to improve my fitness
It was a year of two halves. I was doing so well with this up until the summer, when I was slimmer and stronger than I’ve been for years. But it was a gruelling summer and I was zapped by flu in October – probably because I was very, very tired. It wiped me out for nearly a month. The result was that I only attend my a Fitstep and Pilates class for three sessions last term. You won’t be surprised to hear that the weight has started piling back on and I am finding a number of my favourite clothes are uncomfortably snug. So I need to get back to exercising and hopefully going on walks with my husband.

Overall, it has been probably my most successful year so far, when long hours of sustained work started to pay off. The irony was that Himself was in real trouble with his job and from March through to December, we weren’t sure if he would be able to keep it. Fortunately, the review board found in his favour – but throughout that time, we didn’t know if he would prevail. So in the middle of all these successes, we were busy trying to keep our anxiety on a leash. I’m fervently hoping that 2018 is a kinder year personally and that I fulfil most of my targets I’ve set for my Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2018, which I will be discussing at the beginning of February.

In the meantime, what about you? Did you set yourself any 2017 challenges and how do you feel they went?