Tag Archives: colony world

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc War of the Maps by Paul McAuley #Brainfluffbookreview #WaroftheMapsbookreview

Standard

I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley, as Paul McAuley is always worth reading – I thoroughly enjoyed his cli-fi thriller Austral and the first book in his sci fi series The Quiet War.

BLURB: On a giant artificial world surrounding an artificial sun, one man – a lucidor, a keeper of the peace, a policeman – is on the hunt. His target was responsible for an atrocity, but is too valuable to the government to be truly punished. Instead he has been sent to the frontlines of the war, to use his unique talents on the enemy. So the lucidor has ignored orders, deserted from his job, left his home and thrown his life away, in order to finally claim justice.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The worldbuilding, as ever with McAuley, was both detailed and plausible. But what I liked most of all about this story was that we mostly stayed in the viewpoint of the lawman, known as a lucidor, who is determined to track down a truly horrible antagonist – a murderer who casually commits atrocities, and enjoying watching his victims suffer. Unfortunately, he is also one of the foremost scientific thinkers on the planet who is able to help fight the influx of mutated creatures engulfing villages, countryside and towns, slaughtering humanity, domestic animals and wildlife alike. There are some gripping passages of the ruined landscape where no birds or insects break the silence…

So, who is right – the dogged lucidor who is convinced that Remfrey He should account for the lives he has torn apart? Or the authorities who feel that, in this extremely unusual case, Remfrey He should be allowed to atone for his misdeeds by travelling to the site of the suffering land to assist in beating back the alter women? These grotesque mutations have a social structure resembling ants and gather everything in their path to tear up and reuse it for their own purposes – including people.

Remfrey He is one of the most satisfyingly nasty characters I’ve encountered in a while, and by contrast, I grew to love the lucidor, whose name we hardly ever see. He has adopted his birth name, Thorn, after he retired from his profession of tracking down lawbreakers, when he was known as Lucidor Kyl. He is elderly, tough, resourceful and trusts no one and we’re in his head for a large chunk of the narrative. This story starts off as one man tracking another through an increasingly dangerous landscape, and broadens out as the lucidor is sucked into some of the upheavals caused by the dangerous mutations.

One of the intriguing details is that some people are gifted with particular talents, such as scrying. As well as being brilliant and resourceful, Remfrey He is a silvertongue, with the gift of persuading most people to become his disciples. And the reason why the lucidor was sent after him, is that his gift nullifies the talents of those in close proximity. I liked how that played out, because the consequence is that other people who might be able to successfully apprehend Remfrey He don’t want to work with the lucidor, as he sucks their gift dry.

This isn’t a fast-paced book. McAuley’s habit of writing dense description about every step of the way ensures that we see the world through the lucidor’s eyes and his days of plunging headlong into adventures are well and truly over. But I not only could see the world, I could taste and hear it, as this book swallowed me up and had me engrossed until right up to the end. It’s a gem that deserves to be far better known than it is. Highly recommended by fans of well-written intelligent colony world adventures and epic fantasy. The ebook arc copy of War of the Maps was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Don’t dress to kill, dress to survive… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffbigdressescovers

Standard

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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with BIG DRESSES. I’ve selected These Broken Stars – Book 1 of the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

 

This edition was produced by Disney Hyperion in December 2013. It’s a gorgeous cover and has become, quite rightly in my opinion, the default cover for this book. That dress is just beautiful – the colour sublime and wonderfully sets off her titian hair. I love the richness and sheer volume of those skirts and the way her hair also moves as she stretches up to him. And there are stars… *sighs with pleasure*. The problem with this cover is that the title font just disappears, being far too slight to prevail against the action and colour of the cover.

 

Published in May 2016 by Carlsen, this German cover is not a bad effort. The two faces both looking out at us are eye-catching and again, the starscape appearing through the main image is effective and gives us a real clue as to the genre. However, while I like the attractive style of the font – it’s the wrong colour, being far too close to the skin tones of the faces behind it, so it essentially disappears when in thumbnail.

 

This Portuguese edition, published by Editora Planeta in December 2015, is featuring the romance far more heavily, while also giving us a taste of the alien planet below. Split image covers like this can work as long as the divide is effective, which I think it is in this case. I think while the font works for a romance, it isn’t so successful if you take into account the sci fi element. However, the problem for me is that the kissing couple is not something that would induce me to pick up the book.

 

This French edition, produced by La Martinière Jeunesse in December 2013, is more heavily leaning towards the sci fi element – you won’t be surprised to learn that this was a very close contender for me. I like the tension evident on the protagonists’ faces and the punchy font, as well as the clearly alien nature of the landscape featured across the top half of this cover.

 

This paperback edition, published by Allen & Unwin in December 2013 is my favourite. It is essentially the top cover, with all the lushness and loveliness AND you can read the book’s name, which has to be a bonus😊. Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Dark they were and golden-eyed… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofffirstcontactcovers

Standard

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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring FIRST CONTACT covers. I’ve selected Foreigner – Book 1 of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh, who writes this dynamic so very, very well…

 

This edition was produced by DAW in December 2004 and as you can see, it’s an anniversary edition – I’m still reeling at the thought that Foreigner was first released in 1994… I really like this cover – the aliens are spot on, as far as Cherryh’s description of them goes and poor old Bren is looking suitably worried between them, which is also nicely accurate. I also like the styling of the font and the warm tones. This was going to be my favourite, especially as it’s the cover design of the book we own.

 

Published in September 1995 by Mondadori, this Italian cover is my least favourite. It’s a long time since I read this one, but given the title, this image gives the impression that the book as about a bald man with a big gun and a bad attitude – and it isn’t. Bren certainly isn’t that kind of hero – he’s an academic who became caught up by a chain of events into being an ambassador for these warlike enigmatic aliens. It’s a shame, because as a cover, that is a really effective image with the gun looming out at us.

 

This Czech edition, published by Triton in 2003 2010, is also a good effort. The aliens ride huge shaggy beasts that look a bit mammoth-like, but are a great deal more highly strung. The image of one of these creatures seen through a porthole makes an interesting picture and certainly would have me wanting to pick this one up and take a closer look.

 

This Polish edition, produced by MAG in 1997, I think, the weakest of all the covers. I don’t think that spacescape works particularly well, as there is far too much going on, cluttering it up. And the image of the alien looks all wrong. Worse, it’s completely misleading as the aliens are not in space. Space never comes into it – they are on their home planet and have just evolved to have steam power. So… ineffective and misleading. And frankly ugly. Which is something I never thought I’d say about a spacescape.

 

This French edition, published by Mnémos in January 2012 is my favourite. I love the depiction of the aliens – there is a real sense of emotion and tension between them and the shadowing gives a sense of the mystery about them which pervades the book. The splashes of red really pop and I think this cover is both visually pleasing and bang on when depicting a really tricky book to nail down. Bren’s difficult position and sense of isolation also is apparent in the slump of his shoulders. It’s reminded me all over again just how much I loved the series when I first started reading it – and that I should get back into it. Which is your favourite?

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2019 Roundup #Brainfluffbookblog #ShootfortheMoon2019Roundup

Standard

This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting. These are the targets I set for 2019 – how did I do?

• Edit and publish Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles
I released Mantivore Dreams at the end of August, so it was bang on target, given I’d planned to publish it during the summer.

• Complete, edit and publish Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles
Mantivore Prey was released just three months later, at the end of November, and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I’d had a battle with this one and I feel I’ve managed to complete Kyrillia’s story in a way that is both powerful and moving. Vrox’s story will be concluded in Mantivore Warrior, due out after Easter, all being well.

• Rewrite, edit and submit Miranda’s Tempest
This didn’t happen and for the time being, I’m going to abandon this project. Miranda’s Tempest is too far from my current goal, which is to continue working on my self-publishing career. So breaking off from my writing and publishing schedule to fit in a book that I think could cause me major problems in the writing seems a daft move, right now.

• Outline and start on the first draft of Bloodless – Book 1 of the Beth Wheeler mysteries
I didn’t manage to get to this one, either. Mantivore Prey took longer to rewrite and edit – I don’t write particularly quickly and my editing process isn’t all that fast. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article – these goals were ambitious, and I failed with this one.

• Release paperback editions of Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I’ve now managed to get both these books published in paperback – in fact, Breathing Space is pretty much hot off the press, as I uploaded the paperback format just a couple of weeks ago. I’m thrilled to be able to hold the books in my hand, and particularly like how the blurb and the Griffinwing Publishing logo appear on the back cover.

• Organise reviews for the release of Netted
I was delighted to have a handful of reviews organised for Netted when it was released by Grimbold Publishing. And I’m very happy with the amazing cover that Mhairi designed.

• Regain my fitness and stamina
I now feel a whole lot better, but still haven’t regained the stamina and fitness I’d achieved in the early part of 2018. However, now I’m taking blood pressure tablets, I’m feeling so much better and in a position to really work on building up my stamina and fitness.

• Continue delivering my Creative Writing courses at Brighton Metropolitan College
I achieved this goal, in that I completed the 2018/19 academic year with my lovely students, before resigning from the position of Creative Writing tutor, after a wonderful ten-year stint. It was a wrench and I still miss them, but running those three classes, along with my other obligations, was simply too much. Since stepping down from the post, I’ve felt a lot better and have found writing easier. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, though.

• Continue teaching TW
I continued to teach Tim, as part of a team of tutors who also supported him when he attended Chichester College to take a Music Diploma. The course has a two-year option, but Tim decided not to continue his education in a college setting, as he feels he learns more on a one-to-one basis. We prepared him for the last section of his English Functional Skills Level Two exam – the Reading paper – throughout the Autumn term. While he is a fluent reader, he found it a challenge to compare and contrast three separate texts, then answer questions on them – but then this exam is commensurate with a GCSE English Language qualification, so it isn’t meant to be too easy. He took the exam at the end of November 2019 and during his first lesson after Christmas, we got the news that he not only passed it – he smashed it by getting an amazing 25/30!

• Continue blogging about books and writing
I thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing books – I’m keeping my target for the year at 100 books, although during 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 128 reviews, though some have yet to be published. I had intended to branch out from mostly featuring book reviews, to taking part in reading challenges such as Love Your Library and Beat the Backlist. It didn’t happen, as I’m rubbish at nipping across to the host site and adding the links. Although I did participate in Sci Fi Month, which I absolutely loved. I wrote a measly five articles in my series authoring annals, so that was also something of a fail.

During 2019, I wrote 350,569 words – 151,500 were written for the blog, just under 52,000 were in connection with my teaching duties and just over 147,000 words went towards my novels. I published the boxed set of The Sunblinded trilogy, Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey – and I had the fun of watching someone else publish Netted. I also had my Roman steampunk story ‘The Final Voyage of Juno’s Breath’ published in the anthology Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion II.

While I would have liked to have managed to get more books completed, I am pleased to see my backlist steadily growing. Overall, I think the 2019 Shoot for Moon Challenge went reasonably well. I shall post my goals for the 2020 Shoot the Moon Challenge at the end of the month. What about you – do you find setting targets helpful? What was your biggest success of 2019?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson #Brainfluffbookreview #Aurorabookreview

Standard

I loved Robinson’s Mars series and have also enjoyed some of his subsequent work, as he is an ambitious writer, willing to push the envelope in what he does – see my review of 2312.

BLURB: Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now, we approach our new home. AURORA.

And that’s it – the blurb. How refreshingly short and to the point… As you may have gathered, this is a generational ship adventure in the closing stages of its long, long journey. I was impressed at the strength of the characterisation of the main protagonist, Freya, who is the daughter of the main engineer striving to keep Aurora, their ship, in one piece long enough for the arrival at Tau Ceti. Roberson writes on the harder side of science fiction, so there is a fair amount of technical detail regarding keeping the ship and all the systems running. I found a lot of the problems thrown up by trying to keep a small biome running really fascinating – of course, this is fiction rather than science, but many of the issues Robinson raises did sound scarily plausible.

While many of the problems around a generational ship were interesting, I am always all about the story and that means characters. There have been times when I have found Robinson’s characterisation a little thinner than I would have liked. Not so here. I loved Freya and I thought his depiction of her development from a young girl, through the main relationships throughout her life, until she is facing the historic events around the arrival at Tau Ceti absolutely convincing.

The other strength in this narrative is the way the plot twists kept coming. I simply didn’t predict the way events unspooled on the arrival to their longed-for destination, and was unable to put the book down as I was utterly engrossed in finding out what would happen next. That is about all I’m going to say about the plot as I would hate to provide any spoilers – this is one that needs to be read with the minimum amount of foreknowledge. That strong narrative kept me turning the pages, so that I read faaar into the night.

Any niggles? Robinson is fond of slowing the pace right back down at times, and there were long – and I mean long – passages where he muses about the philosophy surrounding the ship’s consciousness, which I felt tipped into self-indulgence. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. There is so much in this book that I loved and I know that Aurora will stay in my head for a long time to come. Highly recommended for fans of excellent generational ship adventures.
8/10

Sunday Post – 1st December, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a busy week. On Wednesday, Tim had his exam. I drove him and his mother to college and we waited for him in the canteen, praying and thinking positive thoughts at him. It would be marvellous if he could pass this one. On Wednesday evening, owing to a complete brainfade moment, I realised I had a major glitch with the publication of Mantivore Prey owing to the fact that I’d – somehow – managed to forget to upload the manuscript! So I was wrestling with that problem into the wee small hours… I have to say, Amazon were unfailingly nice and helpful about the whole thing – and it was a huge relief to have Mantivore Prey available by the original publication day!

On Thursday, Sally came over and we spent the afternoon editing her book, which is going well. And on Friday, which thankfully was a lovely sunny day, I finally made it up to my daughter’s to spend time with her and watch my eighteen-month-old granddaughter having a swimming lesson. Yesterday, my sister had all her furniture moved to her new home, which now looks wonderful with her own things in it. I spent some of the time with her, mostly providing moral support as her removal men were fantastic. And today I am back to Brighton to celebrate Frankie’s fifteenth birthday – where does the time go??

Himself is finally back to work, though still on the painkillers and far from fully recovered. He needs to keep moving – sitting still for any length of time is a problem – and keep doing the exercises.

As well as the publication of Mantivore Prey I’ve had a complete blast throughout November, taking part if Sci Fi Month, which was great fun. Thanks go to Imyril of There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa of Dear Geek Place for their hard work in making this blogging event such a success.

Last week I read:

Valkyrie Burning – Book 3 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
The war that began on Hayden’s World years ago has blossomed into a brawl across the stars, and yet that single and otherwise largely unimportant colony continues to be a central point in the conflagration. Human forces have pushed outward, now taking enemy worlds in response to the attacks on their own, but they don’t have the numbers or the power to hold what they take.
This third book nicely expands this initial flashpoint between the humans and the aliens in the military space opera adventure. And I was also pleased to see that the wonderful super-soldier Sorilla Aida has a key role in the story. Review to follow.

 

Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder
Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels’ parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.
When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one – the ongoing puzzle of exactly what is going on, along with the issue of time dilation combined with Faster Than Light travel, makes for an engrossing read with some original aspects. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles is now available!

Reblog – Parley with an author, S.J. Higbee by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters blog

Friday Faceoff featuring Chocky by John Wyndham

Reblog – Review of Breathing Space – Book 3 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters blog

Review of Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of The Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold

Reblog – Review of Dying for Space – Book 2 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters

Review of Shadow Captain – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

Reblog – Review of Running out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters

Teaser Tuesday featuring Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Synder

Review of Pirate Bound – prequel to the Telepathic Space Pirate series by Carysa Locke

Sunday Post 24th November 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

Frozen Wavelets presents: Standard Deviant by Holly Shofield https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/11/30/frozen-wavelets-presents-standard-deviant-by-holly-shofield/ This short story is a gem – I certainly didn’t see that ending coming!

The Best Poems About Islands https://interestingliterature.com/2019/11/30/the-best-poems-about-islands/ Living on a large island, this article caught my eye. Some of these I know and love – and some I need to check out…

#SPFBO Semi Finalists and Finalist Announcement https://lynns-books.com/2019/11/27/spfbo-semi-finalists-and-finalist-announcement/ I’m in awe of how my blogging buddy, Lynn, tackles the task of judging this competition that features some of the best indie fantasy reads – and this is the book that she has selected from an entry of 30 books…

Writing NETTED – What I’d Planned and How It Worked Out by S.J. Higbee https://www.sarah-ash.com/fantasy-and-science-fiction/2343/writing-netted-what-id-planned-and-how-it-worked-out-by-s-j-higbee/ I was honoured when Sarah Ash, talented fantasy author and manga expert, asked me to write a guest blog about my writing process – and this is the result…

99 Problems and #Fibromyalgia Is All of Them https://yadadarcyyada.com/2019/11/22/99-problems-and-fibromyalgia-is-all-of-them/ Donna uses edged humour to highlight just how difficult it is to live with a chronic condition with a slew of miserable symptoms. I found this both poignant and funny – and came away with a huge respect for her courage…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Review of INDIE Ebook Cleon Moon – Book 5 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker #Brainfluffbookreview #CleonMoonbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

Standard

I have been following this series and enjoying the unfolding adventure and likeable nonsense that accompanies all the various problems bedevilling disaster magnet Alisa Marchenko – see my review of the first book, Star Nomad. I am linking this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Now that she’s retrieved the Staff of Lore, Captain Alisa Marchenko can finally dedicate herself and her ship to finding her kidnapped daughter. Her scant clues lead her to Cleon Moon. Unfortunately, since the fall of the empire, mafia clans have taken over the domed cities on the harsh moon, and exploring there isn’t easy. Even with the cyborg Leonidas at her side, Alisa struggles to survive vengeful mafia clans, rogue Starseers, and genetically engineered predators. To further complicate matters, she must worry about the ancient relic hidden on her ship, a beacon to anyone in the system who craves its power. If Alisa can’t navigate the moon’s chaos, she may lose her only chance to catch up with her daughter.

Alisa’s smart mouth is entertaining as the action gets hot and her adrenaline kicks in, while she finds herself in situations where she’d be better off heading in the opposite direction. The problem is, she’s looking for her eight-year-old daughter who was snatched by the infamous Starseers, telepaths with a dark history of trying to subdue the empire and use the bulk of the untalented population as serfs.

I also liked how the stories of the other main characters in the ship are also progressing – each adventure highlights one of the passengers so that we learn more about their backstory and/or continue to develop their character arc. This time around, it is aspiring chef, Beck, who is very much caught up in the action as he goes off to meet up with someone who might be interested in the sauces he makes… Meanwhile, Alisa has investigations of her own to make – where is Jelena, her daughter? If I have a slight grumble, is that she seems to be getting a tad too distracted with cyborg hunk, Leonidas, who she desires, rather than keeping focused on the search for her daughter. Meanwhile, her long-suffering engineer, Mica, keeps looking for a new position but somehow never getting around to leaving the ship and new-age, Yumi, with her rescued chickens, is also very excited at the prospect of landing on a moon where fungi is the main flora, given she knows how to make a drug from one of the rarer species…

Throw in dinosaur hunts, a knockabout space battle where weaving amongst the taller mushrooms is a thing and a devastating theft from their trusty ship, and the pages flew by so that I reached THE END with a sense of loss that this slice of the adventure is now over. I generally don’t embark on long-running series if I can avoid it – keeping up with them is too much like hard work. However, I have somehow reached the end of Book 5 of this whacky adventure without it seeming to be a big deal. And I’m definitely continuing with Book 6, Arkadian Skies – apart from anything else, this Indie series is very good value for money.

Recommended for fans of action-packed space opera, including a splash of romance.
8/10

MANTIVORE DREAMS Cover Reveal and available ARCS #MantivoreDreams #GriffinwingPublishingbooks

Standard

I am delighted to announce that I am about to release the first book in a new series, Mantivore Dreams. The Arcadian Chronicles follows the fortunes of a forgotten human colony and what happens to the aliens already living there.

Again, the cover has been designed by my awesome buddy Mhairi Simpson and I think she’s done a fabulous job. While continuing the branded look she has created for me, this design also gives a clear idea of the story with Vrox’s mantivore eyes lurking behind young Kyrillia.

I am also offering review copies for anyone who would like to read and review this book – there are currently 15 arcs available and here is the link where you can download a copy:
https://booksprout.co/arc/19092/mantivore-dreams

As I am offering it through Booksprout, there is a final date by which the review has to be posted, which is 10th September on Amazon – it doesn’t have to be more than a few lines.

I know many of my readers have fallen in love with Lizzy, so I am hoping that some of you will also find a place in your heart for Kyrillia and grumpy old Vrox, who I personally care about far too much. I’ve included the blurb and the opening scene to give you some idea of whether this one will tick your box…

BLURB: Seventeen-year-old Kyrillia Brarian has an imaginary friend, a kindly mantivore called Vrox. She can’t recall a time when he wasn’t there. And over the years, Vrox has been her main source of comfort and strength as she drudged for her mother and nursed her brain-damaged uncle, so she’s never given much thought as to how he got there. Of course, he can’t be real. But when only three or four other people in her dusty village even smile at her, Kyrillia isn’t about to turn her back on the happy, warm images crowding her mind.

Until a family quarrel spirals into something darker – and Kyrillia is forced to wonder if Vrox is imaginary, or even friendly…

CHAPTER ONE

I held my breath. At last! I’d begun to think I’d never track down this music site. A picklist unfolded and I gawked at the strange words. Classical. Youth Cultures. Popular Cultures. Devotional. Ethnic.
What did they mean? Surely music was just a dance tune, or a song? I jabbed at the first one. Yet another picklist unpeeled onto the mat. Much longer. The words tasted strange as I sounded the musicians’ names aloud. “Beethave- no -hoven… Mozz-art…Ta-ch— simply don’t have the time to sound that one out.” I went for a short name – Bach. What did his Family do, to earn a Name like that?
My eyes slid down the picklist of his tunes and found a piece about organs with something about a minor D. Probably a comedy. I hoped so – I could do with a laugh.
“Play.” I breathed in the thick, sweet smell, storing up the sensation of Facs-mining on the Node – something I didn’t do nearly enough. Looking across at the bubbling organi-packs glowing in their transparent tanks, I wished I could spend more time here, rather than snatch these forbidden stints when Mother was away.
The sound pealed out. What was the instrument? The notes seemed to stop, then to stack up on each other as they roared around the room, making Mother’s flower vases buzz on the stone floor. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Torrents of melody attacked, drowning me in a rush of yearning. Everything seemed bright, and achingly beautiful.
The final crashing chord faded into silence.
Vrox sways, crooning with delight…
“Again.” I closed my eyes as the monumental music thundered around me. I was Tranced by Vrox’s joy as his emotion rolled through me, swept along by the reverberating climax—
I was stunned by a hard blow. And another. My hurt-hot ear rang with the impact. My cheek felt numb and heavy; my mouth filled with blood.
Vrox rears up, startled – sorry he hadn’t noticed her approach…
“Turn it off! Turn it off!” Mother shrieked over the music. Her distorted face shivered in my vision for a shock-stalled eternity. Snatches of her rant filtered through Bach’s bone-buzzing crescendo, making her fury seem even worse, “…-icked girl… -ways think you know best… –dare to override my passwor…” The organ tune stopped abruptly, just as she screamed, “…ate you! I hate you…
Her words echoed horribly in the small room.
I jerked to my feet. She’s finally admitted it. Axe-sharp hurt immediately snuffed out the flicker of relief, that I’d been right all these years. “Think I don’t know?” My voice shook, on the edge of tears. But grown girls of seventeen shouldn’t cry in front of their mothers. I spun round, stumbling over a vase, and ran. Out into the hot sunlight. Past the stable, whose sharp smell reminded me I still hadn’t mucked out the camel stall or goat pens. I scrabbled at the keycode on the sidegate, my shaking fingers making a hash of it.
She ran after me, yelling my name. Her panting echoed between the house and high fence, getting closer. Finally, as Vrox focused, I got the sequence right. The gate snicked open as she grabbed for my arm. I twisted away, the burn of her nails raking my skin. Skidding through the gate, I slammed it shut in her face. I sprinted across the front yard and past the first startled Node enquirer of the day, over the village courtyard, heading for Westgate. Heat settled like a greasy coat as I raced down Main Street, dust clotting my nose and throat.
At Westgate, Cupert Peaceman, the village security guard, dodged out of the way. Just as well, because I wasn’t stopping for him, or anyone else. Ignoring several calls, driven by the need to get away, I finally slowed, winded and hurting, on the open road where the verges were widened to discourage hostile wildlife. The sun beat down in a suffocating sheet.
Haven’t got a sunscreen – better find some shade. I tottered along on chewed-string legs, coughing up dust. Mother would say it was my punishment. The thought of her pushed me on.
Turning onto Mantivore Way was a relief. The palm tree clumps offered shade and the smell of the water strengthened my legs. I pushed through the shoulder-high reeds, which used to swish over my head, swallowing me whole. Moist leaves slapped against my sore legs. I broke off a brown-brittled stem, whipping it around and stamping noisily to frighten off any lone jaspers or nemmets sheltering from the sun. River silt seeped through my sandals, soothing my feet as I paddled in the murky water. Reaching my sanctuary – a stranded treetrunk – I sat down and rested my eyes on the river.
Sunslit water glitters through the swaying stalks. Scents of river ooze and crushed leaves tickle Vrox’s nostrils. Wind rocks the reeds with a sighing rattle…
See? I was right. She really hates me… For once Vrox, my imaginary childhood companion, was wrong. He reckoned mothers found their daughters annoying, but that, deep down, they cared.
Vrox croons comfort noises, his vari-colour scales flickering in shades of green and blue.
His image flashed on my inscape, while his sympathy finally broke my resolve not to cry. I buried my face in my hands and sobbed until no more tears would come, while the mantivore paced and huffed his sympathy. Finally, I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and stared across the river, where a cargo boat laden with olives throbbed downstream, headed for Reseda. I watched it disappear around the bend, wishing I was on the deck. But then I’d forfeit my right to be Brarian. Waste Uncle Osmar’s painful effort. Besides, I wanted the job – the Node was the only place I felt truly happy. Other than this place. I stared hungrily at the peaceful patterning of light and water. If I came here more often maybe life would seem worth the effort it takes to breathe.
Vrox churrs a strong agreement…
A swishing of reeds warned me, so he faded from my consciousness before I heard the voice. “Kyrillia?”
I relaxed. “Here, Onice.”
“You braced?”
“I’ve been better.”
She high-stepped into the small space surrounding the treetrunk, and carefully sat on the trunk, lifting her skirts clear of the muddy water. “Saw you pelting down the road, so I figured you’d be here.” Handing me a sunscreen, she added, “You’d better borrow this.”
Typical of Onice to worry about me getting fried to a greasy spot. “Oh! Many thanks. I’ll get it back to you tomorrow.”
“She on to you, again?” Onice’s forehead creased in concern.
Grabbing at a reed stem, I rolled it between my fingers.
I hate you… Mother’s wrath-reddened face blazed through my mind as I opened my mouth to frame the words. And closed it. What could I say? I’d watched Onice bask in her parents’ affection with shocked envy ever since I’d been old enough to understand it. She knew that Mother and I fought – she regularly tangled with her own father. But she’d never make sense of Mother’s loathing for me.
And if she did, maybe she’d realise I wasn’t worth her friendship. I stared at the river. “Found that Music site on the Node and played a song. That was when she caught me.”
Onice clicked her tongue. “Bet what had her steaming was you breaking through her passwords and sneaking onto the Node. Again.”
“Hm.” The reed stem mashed to a papery pulp between my fingers. Onice never understood why I persisted in using the Node, despite Mother’s strict ban. But then, I hadn’t told her about Vrox and his constant longing for the Node, either.
“There’s talk about restarting an inter-village apprentice network, Da says. Some girl drowned herself last month in Pistacia cos of her family’s beatings. Maybe you could get yourself signed up for it.” So Onice figures I’ve angered Mother to breaking point.
I hate you… I pushed the memory away, trying to think straight.
“And if I get apprenticed away from here, what happens to Uncle Osmar? She wouldn’t take proper care of him.” I tore at another reed stem.
Onice shrugged. “You got to live your own life. Your Uncle’s had his chances.”
I sighed. It seemed a hard way to treat the old man, especially after all he’d taught me. But it was a sharp-edged situation and if there’d been an easy option I’d already have taken it.
Onice stood up. “Got to get back. Just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
She’s worried I might follow that poor girl into the river. So she dropped all her chores and came after me. I let go of the reed and hugged her. Hard. “Thanks for coming.” I struggled for a solid way to show my gratitude. “If you’re working late, I’ll come by and lend a hand.”
She shook her head, laughing. “Well if I’m working late, you’ll be slogging even later, you crip-wit!”
“S’pose so.” I shakily joined in the laughter, before she left to face certain punishment from her parents, who didn’t like me.

Teaser Tuesday – 23rd July, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

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:

Valkyrie Rising – Book 2 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
68% “This is gonna SUUUCKKK!” someone yelled just as the light flashed once and turned green.
Solrilla went first, a mule kicking her right between the shoulders as her capsule was blown clear of the Cheyenne. The same blasted mule kicked her again, this time across her whole body, as the capsule hit the airstream and suddenly decelerated down and away from the starship.

BLURB: Two years after the initial invasion of Hayden’s World, the newly reinforced Hayden Militia is in a state of stalemate with the remaining enemy forces but neither side is content to leave things at that.

The alien alliance has dispatched their varsity to clean up the resistance on Hayden while the USF has officially activated Task Force V, the latest and most advanced combat ships built by humans.

In the end there are some things you decide in the skies, but some can only be settled in the mud.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, On Silver Wings, which I read far too long ago. So decided to get some more Sorilla goodness back in my life, as I do enjoy a nice slice of military sci fi adventure against those dastardly aliens…

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – How Did I Do? #Brainfluffblog #AuthorAnnals4

Standard

This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting – did this work for me during 2018?
• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest and submit it to the agent who expressed an interest in it
Well, I did the rewrite, submitted the manuscript to an editor in June and got the feedback. By then, I was in the throes of rewriting The Arcadian Chronicles, which I thought wouldn’t take all that long. However, it has. It is still doing so. Which means that Miranda’s Tempest is still waiting to be sorted out. I am hoping to get to it during the summer, However, during the long break from it, I have had a major epiphany regarding the beginning. A – duh! moment where I can’t believe I didn’t take this approach before. It should improve the pacing, make the reader immediately aware of what’s at stake and start the story with a bang.

• Organise new covers for Running Out of Space and Dying for Space
It helps when your best writing buddy also happens to be an awesome cover designer – I was so grateful when Mhairi agreed to help me out and the general response has been nothing but positive since I released the books with the new covers.

• Rewrite, edit and publish Breathing Space
Yes – this was all achieved, so that Breathing Space now completes The Sunblinded Trilogy, after being published on 18th July. I have also set up the story so that Lizzy is poised to start a new chapter in her life, once I start writing the crime series featuring her next series of adventures.

• Rewrite, edit and publish Mantivore Preys and Mantivore Freed
This is another casualty of my poor writing performance during the latter end of the year. I’m now nearly halfway through Mantivore Preys, which I more or less started on schedule – and then started wading through glue as the story graunched from one dead-end to another. At last my writing is gathering momentum again, so I’m hoping to complete the book by the end of February. With luck and a following wind, I’ll also have the first draft of Mantivore Freed finished by the end of the summer. Fingers crossed… I have the covers ready for these books and am really looking forward to getting them completed and published.

• Release paperback editions for Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I have released Running Out of Space as a paperback and had hoped to have Dying for Space done before the end of the year. However, it didn’t happen – again due to my illness. Hopefully, I’ll have Dying for Space and Breathing Space both available in paperback format by the end of February.

• Write the first draft of Bloodless
No, I didn’t get close. My health became a real issue from the time I returned from my lovely writing retreat. Even before then, I wasn’t happy with the quality of my writing which had lost its bounce and energy. It turns out I was the one without any bounce and only now, since my diagnosis of hypertension, am I starting to feel like my old self as the medication is starting to take effect.

• Learn to market my books
Himself and I attended a marketing conference at the early part of the year and came away a tad overwhelmed, but enthusiastic. With Mhairi’s help, I plunged into the rarefied world of Amazon ads and felt quite pleased with my progress for a few months – before the algorithm abruptly changed and nothing was working any more. It takes a lot of time and energy I simply don’t have to keep on top of these developments, so I’ve decided to put the Marketing aspect on the back-burner until I have more books available to make it more economically viable.

• Read and review at least 100 books on my blog
I read 162 books during the year and published 124 reviews on the blog, although I have a few more written that will now have to wait until the coming year to see the light of day. I always love blogging and discussing books, but during the year I had to cut back from posting daily to about four times a week once my energy diminished as I became unwell. I’m not rushing to resume my daily posts, as I think one of my issues has been overwork.

• Continue teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook
Since Northbrook merged with Brighton Metropolitan, the Adult and Community Learning Department has had a new lease of life and during 2018, I was delighted to be able to run an extra session every week. The start of the new academic year in September saw my 10th anniversary teaching Creative Writing, which I still can’t quite believe.

• Continue teaching Tim
I will be continuing to teach Tim for the rest of the year, while he also attends college three days a week and still needs ongoing support. I cannot quite believe how far he’s come – it’s marvellous to see how well he is coping in a course for neuro-typical students, as he’s busy making new friends and extending his musical skills.

• Continue getting fitter
This was an epic fail. I was enjoying my Pilates and Fitstep classes, but as the year wore on I found it increasingly difficult to keep my attendance regular and finally, regretfully, I gave up first the Fitstep class and then the Pilates class as my energy drained away. I am hoping to resume my Pilates classes next week. Wish me luck!

As you can see, it’s been a mixed year. Overall, I’m reasonably happy with the results, given how my illness impacted my productivity and I’m hoping to put in place some lifestyle changes to help me stay healthy during the coming year. I have already set my targets for my Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2019 – I will be sharing them on the blog at the end of January. In the meantime, have a peaceful, healthy year, everyone – hopefully with lots of wonderful books to get lost in. Thank you all for your kind comments, likes and visits – even during the dark times when I couldn’t summon up the energy to post, I always found the kindness and good will evident within our blogging community a continual source of encouragement.