Tag Archives: space opera

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?

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Review of Blue Shift – Book 1 of the Second Species series by Jane O’Reilly

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I picked this one up in Waterstones while spending some book tokens, beguiled by the helmeted girl on the cover.

The Earth is cold, dead and divided. The rich hide away from reality while the rest will do anything to survive. Humanity have only one hope: reaching a habitable planet. But getting there means travelling in large numbers through alien-held space, something that’s politically nearly impossible. Yet for some, fighting their way through space is just a way of life . . .

Jinnifer Blue is a rich girl on the run. An expert pilot, she apprehends criminals on behalf of the government and keeps her illegal genetic modifications a closely guarded secret. But when a particularly dangerous job goes south, leaving her stranded on a prison ship with one of the most ruthless criminals in the galaxy, Jinn realises that the rich and the powerful are hiding more than she’d ever guessed. Now she must decide if she can trust her co-prisoner – because once they discover what the prison ship is hiding, she definitely can’t trust anyone else . . .

I really like the premise that as Earth is increasingly inhabitable, humanity now has no choice but to head for the stars – only the aliens surrounding us aren’t all that impressed. Though some species have specific uses for some of us – and not in a good way… However I do feel O’Reilly missed a bit of a trick, here. Given the desperate straits Earth is in, the decisions taken at the highest level could be justifiable if you look at the numbers involved. For me, there was a problem with the antagonist – I just wish she wasn’t so unremittingly unpleasant as I think there is a real moral dilemma that O’Reilly has closed down by providing a wholly evil antagonist to represent the hard choice that may need to be made. However, this is the first book in the series and perhaps this aspect of the story is more thoroughly explored in the sequel – I do hope so.

I enjoyed Jinn, who is an appealing protagonist with a tricky past. This gives her edges and a certain toughness, which I liked. I found the grimness of an existence where everyone has to work to pay off their modifications nicely realistic, given it is clearly capitalism that has powered humanity’s existence in space. O’Reilly writes action well, although I did find a couple of the jumps in narrative time at the start of the book a little jarring and wondered whether it would have been more satisfactory if we had started the book in 2207, leaving the main characters to fill in what happened twenty years earlier.

However, once the book got going, I stayed up way later than I’d intended to discover what happens next – O’Reilly is certainly good at writing a page-turner. There was plenty of action, alongside the political manoeuvring and this detailed world was effectively depicted without loss of pace. The romance worked well, helping to power the story along although it wasn’t the main element. Do be warned, though, there are a couple of explicit sex scenes.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I’m hoping to be able to get hold of the second book when it comes out as this dark, difficult problem facing Earth and its hapless inhabitants has got me wondering what will happen next… Recommended for fans of character-led space opera.
8/10

Review of INDIE book The Long Way Home – Book 1 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase

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Himself has been nagging me to read this one ever since he bought it – and when I finally managed to get to it, I’m so very glad I did…

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.

I’ve read a couple of science fiction books recently that have started in a fairly leisurely manner – this isn’t one of them. It hits the ground running and feeds information to the reader, who needs to catch up. I love it. It’s the reason why SFF is my go-to genre, no other fiction makes me think out of the box in quite the same way… Moire is scrambling to stay ahead of a ruthless corporation who want the information she has and isn’t fussy about how they’ll get it.

The worldbuilding is solidly convincing with all sorts of nice details that has Moire scratching her head as she struggles to catch up with the technology since she finds herself bounced into the future. I stayed up far later than I should have as this book refused to let me go until I’d finished it. We learn about all sorts of interesting places as she tries to keep a low profile in the less salubrious parts of space – think of an adrenaline-fuelled version of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. And no… the name of Chase’s book isn’t a rip-off, as it was published in 2012, well before Becky Chambers published her space opera best-seller.

As well as being an exciting chase, there are also some interesting plot twists – a couple I saw coming and one I didn’t – that also helped to keep the pages turning. The writing is accomplished and smooth, while Moire is a thoroughly likeable character who is doing her best to acclimatise herself in hard circumstances.

The story came to a suitable climax, though the ending leaves us with a lot more unanswered questions – however, for once I don’t care because I have Raven’s Children on my Kindle ready and waiting. I shan’t be leaving it long before I return to this thrilling world.
9/10

ANNDDD…

Laura from Fuonlyknew has written a 4 star review of Dying for Space which I’m delighted about. I’m still getting used to the buzz of people reading and enjoying my writing…

Sunday Post – 17th December 2017

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

I’ve now broken up from Northbrook and got all my notes for next term’s course photocopied. I now only have the Scheme of Work and lesson plans to complete.

On Wednesday evening the writing group I belong to all went out for our Christmas jolly – to The Lamb in Angmering. The meal was absolutely delicious – vegetarian menus can be a bit hit and miss, but the mushroom tart tatin was utterly scrummy and of course, the company was great. We hadn’t managed to meet up throughout most of November so it was brilliant to catch up with everyone’s news

And on Thursday, I finally had the chance to be fully involved in the Launch Day for Dying for Space which was so much fun. Many, many thanks to those of you who sent messages of support, or retweeted about it. My lovely friend Mhairi came over, despite not feeling all that well and held my hand throughout the whole day – there is a solid reason why I dedicated Dying for Space to her… Though it was the second book I’ve released this year, the first time around I was in bed with flu.

On Friday, I woke up to the fact that Christmas is less than a fortnight away – eek! So got most of my cards written and sent and ordered a bunch of pressies online. Hopefully over the weekend I’ll be able to get the rest done.

This week I have read:

The Long Way Home – Book 1 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase
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.
Himself was on at me to read this one – and he was absolutely right. It’s excellent space opera – we start right in the middle of a space battle and the story just whips along with an intriguing, smart protagonist. Despite having a great deal on this week, this one proved to be impossible to put down until I’d finished it.

 

The Frequency of Aliens – Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette
Becoming an overnight celebrity at age sixteen should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward. Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.
This is an enjoyable adventure around the spaceship that turned up in the first book in this series, which I haven’t yet read. Doucette manages to make the omniscient viewpoint work owing to his humorously wry take on the events that unfold around the hapless Annie. Review to follow after Christmas…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 10th December, 2017

Review of The Medusa’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Mask of Medusa series by T.O. Munro

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Frequency of Aliens – Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly

Launch of Dying for Space – IT’S HERE  …AND Pippa Jay featuring an excerpt from Dying for Space

Friday Face-off – Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble…featuring Strong Poison – Book 6 of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers
AND
Chuckles at Chuckles Book Cave promoting Running Out of Space and Dying for Space
AND
Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang featuring an excerpt from Dying for Space

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Fade Out by Patrick Tilley
AND
Bibliophile Ramblings featuring an excerpt from Dying for Space

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

Christmas During the American Civil War #Christmas #history @RichardBuxton65 http://maryanneyarde.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/christmas-during-american-civil-war.html?spref=tw This excellent article is penned by ex-student Richard Buxton, author of Whirligig which I reviewed here. Both are worth reading…

We Look Forward to Your Next Submission http://liminalstoriesmag.com/blog/2016/8/7/we-look-forward-to-your-next-submission The marvellous Steph Bianchini – @SPBianchini – brought this one to my attention – and it’s well worth passing on.

Is This Cigar-Shaped Asteroid Watching Us? http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/12/scientists_are_watching_oumuamua_an_asteroid_they_think_could_be_an_alien.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top And just when you thought truth couldn’t get any more stranger than fiction…

10 Things Only People Who Read Ebooks Understand https://mccullum001.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/10-things-only-people-who-read-ebooks-understand/ These ten hilarious cartoons certainly cheered me up.

Give Your Answers in the Blog Comments, Please… https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/give-your-answers-in-the-blog-comments-please/ You’ve been kidnapped. You can call on one character from one book to come and rescue you. Who do you call?

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Teaser Tuesday – 21st November, 2017

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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!

Well… this slightly awkward – because right now, I’m rereading my own book on my Kindle to iron out any formatting glitches before uploading it to Amazon. I did consider turning to the next book on my reading pile, but that didn’t seem quite right, either. So I’ve chosen an extract from my upcoming book, anyway.

This is my choice of the day:

Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy by S.J. Higbee

20% “So.” He eyed me up and down. “You’re Elsbeth’s replacement, eh? And where did the old man dig you up from, then?”

I blinked. Whatever they thought, people usually didn’t speak of Norman in such terms and certainly not when a guest at his table. My wariness of this man spiked into dislike. “I’m what is known in polite circles as a love-child.” I gave him my version of Norman’s lethal grin. “But doubtless, you’d call me a bastard.”

BLURB: Cadet Officer Elizabeth Wright just wants to make her father proud, while the mercenary warlord is looking for her to replace his dead family…

I finally get the opportunity to become a serving officer and fulfil my childhood dream, as well as get to know my biological father, General Norman. And when I first clap eyes on Restormel, the HQ of my father’s space mercenary outfit, it’s the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen.

But appearances can be deceptive. There are dark secrets hidden in the twisting corridors and blood-soaked cells beneath the training grounds and banqueting rooms. Secrets that seep out. Secrets that demand fresh victims, because whatever else happens, they can’t be allowed to see the light of day…

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 1st November, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Artemis by Andy Weir

#science fiction #adventure #Moon #crime thriller

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of Jazz’s problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself – and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even more unlikely than the first.

I loved The Martian – the book, that is, rather than the film which was a disappointment. So I’m very much looking forward to this one – apart from anything else, I’m delighted it features a female protagonist. It is being released on 14th November – so not too long to wait!

Friday Faceoff – These mist covered mountains…

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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 couples, so I’ve chosen Brothers in Arms – Book 5 of the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold.

 

This is the cover produced by Baen Book in November 2001. I like the pulp feel that is Baen’s trademark and I think this is one of their best offerings. The figures reclining in the middle of the cover relate directly to the content inside, as does the disembodied faces. I also really like the title font and the manner in which the author’s name is also featured – nifty and elegantly done. If I could change anything, I’d do away with the chatter, but you can’t have everything.

 

And this is what Baen came up with in January 2008. Oh dear. What a sad, lacklustre affair when compared with the quirky excellence of seven years earlier… The figures are poorly detailed and that polka-dotted background doesn’t even convince as a starscape!

 

This is more like it! Published in January 2007 by Blackstone Audiobooks, I really like the detail of the cockpit here, with the reflection of the pilot looking out towards the approaching planet. This gives the sense of the action and drama that this book brims with in an attractive, evocative setting. This is my favourite.

 

Produced in October 1996 by Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, this German edition is very simple. The cover is clearly a play on the title and a reference to Miles’ two identities. It is very simple and the rather washed-out skyscape gives a sense of the genre, but is surprisingly effective. I’d certainly pick it up to have another look, although I don’t like the depiction of Miles – I think he looks cruel.

 

This edition, published in August 2008 by Nesta Press, once more gives us a slice of the action. I like the artwork and the drama, while the blues and greys work well to draw the eye and encourage me to take another look. Again, this is a deliberate attempt to hark back to the pulp editions of early science fiction novels and successfully informs the browsing reader of the genre. Which is your favourite?

 

ANNDDD…

 

Steph at Earthian Hivemind interviews me about my writing and my debut novel…

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

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I have heard Jacey Bedford speak on a number of panels at various Fantasycons over the years and a couple of years ago, she did an inspirational workshop about submissions that helped me overcome my block about sending work out. So when I had a few pennies for my birthday, I ordered this science fiction offering. I’m so glad I did.

Mega corporations, more powerful than any one planetary government, use their agents to race each other for resources across the galaxy. The agents, or psi-techs, are implanted with telepath technology. The psi-techs are bound to the mega-corps — that is, if they want to retain their sanity. Cara Carlinni is an impossible thing – a runaway psi-tech. She knows Alphacorp can find its implant-augmented telepaths, anywhere, anytime, mind-to-mind. So even though it’s driving her half-crazy, she’s powered down and has been surviving on tranqs and willpower. So far, so good. It’s been almost a year, and her mind is still her own. So far…

I really loved Cara – she is desperate and frightened when we first meet her. Clearly used to dealing with the sleazier side of life, she doesn’t hesitate to sleep with Ben, the pilot who offers to take her off-planet, thinking it’s part of the deal. But over the length of the book, which includes chases, murders and helping establish a colony on a new world, Cara begins to find herself again. Bedford effectively depicts a woman struggling to put an abusive past behind her and build a new life for herself – and I really enjoyed the fact that it certainly isn’t all plain sailing just because she finds someone who cares for her.

I’m aware I may have given the impression this book is all about the romance, and while it is an element, it certainly isn’t the driving force or main theme of the book, which is far more mainstream epic space opera – that of corruption and the ruthlessness of big corporations. Once again, we have a future where it is huge capitalist corporations driving colonisation of planets. Inevitably, it comes down to profit – and you won’t be surprised to learn that when eye-watering sums of money are involved, the people running those corporations regard those in the way as expendable. It doesn’t help that they are a poorly regarded, eccentric cult with relatively few resources…

I loved the growing friction between the team of experts all with brain implants to boost their telepathic, empathetic and healing talents and the colonists who wish to establish an agrarian idyll where technology is replaced by horse and bullock power and industry is severely restricted. Bedford is very good at keeping the pace going with a series of adventures that keep the narrative ticking along at a fair clip, all the while steadily ramping up the stakes. While I love this genre, all too often I find the characterisation suffers in the middle of establishing all the world-spanning action – but it is the characters and what happens to them that is firmly at the heart of this one, which leads to an action-packed finale.

All in all, this is a cracking read and I shall be looking out for the next one in the series, just as soon as I manage to find some space on my bulging book shelves. Highly recommended for fans of entertaining epic space opera.
9/10

ANNDDD…

As part of the blog tour for Running Out of Space, Pippa Jay has interviewed me about stuff about me, writing the book and life in general…

PUBLISHED TODAY!

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RUNNING OUT OF SPACE
SUNBLINDED: 1

by S.J. Higbee

 

Elizabeth Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…

I can’t recall whose idea it was. Just that me and my shipmates 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 English 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.

 

And Hywela at Romance That’s Out of This World is starting my blog tour with a guest post by yours truly.

Running Out of Space is available on Amazon.com 

and Amazon UK  for an introductory offer until the end of October only!

Here is the start of the book, where it all begins to go wrong…

CHAPTER ONE

Yeah, I know – Basement Level on Space Station Hawking – what were we thinking?  But penned up on punishment duty with only the prospect of one chaperoned shopping trip had driven us to it. Though the charms of Basement Level wore thin as soon as we set off from the lift. One light in four was working – and then only in Dim mode. The corridors were half the width of the upper levels; a big problem as I’ve seen sewage tanks more wholesome than those walls. You wouldn’t want to brush against them wearing anything other than shipwear throwaways, while keeping off the walls was harder than you’d think, because we were wading ankle-deep in… stuff.

Jessica punched my arm. “Must be homely for you, Lizzy. Floor looks like your cribicle after you done tidying.”

Alisha and Sonja started sniggering.

“’Cept the smell isn’t as vile as your boots,” I replied.

Our laughter bounced around the filthy corridor, easing the mood for a couple of minutes but did nothing about the putrid smell. We struggled on a bit longer, until a grimy woman scuttled past, forcing us far too close to the walls. She didn’t even look our way, let alone thank us for making sufficient room.

Sonja and Alisha stopped.

“Let’s turn round. Unblocking the heads is more fun than this.” Sonja wrinkled her nose at the empty tunnel ahead. “Even the natives got sense enough to be someplace else.”

“We’ve gone promming around for less than a nanosec. And you wanna run back cos the scenery isn’t the same as on board?” Jessica clicked her tongue in scorn. “Starting to sound like those old nannies.”

Sonja flinched at the derision in her voice, but – being Sonja – wouldn’t lock horns with Jessica.

Breathing through my mouth, I straightened up. Jessica is right. So what if this is a dank disappointment? We didn’t come down here for the view – we came to prove we could handle ourselves when off-limits.

But Alisha grabbed Jessica’s arm. “Sonja and me reckon this is a vile place. We vote to head back. Tramping through filth is a tragic waste of shore leave.”

All argument ceased when the floor crud rustled and heaved behind us. A cat-sized rat scuttered through the litter into the gloom beyond.

I shivered. “It’s gotta get better sometime, soon. We’re snagging the next lift we see back to Trader Level.”

We continued trudging onwards for another ten minutes. Just as I was beginning to think the scuzzy corridor was leading into infinity, we turned a corner into a small plaza. With a blast of relief, I spotted the lift in the far corner and relaxed. Now we were nearly out of here, we could do the tourist bit. Truth be told, the word ‘plaza’ probably gives the space more credit than it deserves. While the lighting was brighter and the floor litter had been trodden relatively flat, the buzz that normally goes with buying and selling wasn’t here. Under the stink of rotting rubbish was the sharper stench of desperation.

I passed a trader’s eye over the ratty stalls. Everything I could see on display would’ve gone straight into our ship’s recycler. The food canisters were filthy without the benefit of even the most basic steri-scrub. And the water on sale might have shown blue on the pacs’ purity scales, but the readings must have been blixed, because that cloudy stuff wasn’t fit to pass your lips. Even the powdered water looked like sweepings off a shower-stall floor.

If we hadn’t come down here, I’d never have known this place existed. How many on Shooting Star know about it? This is what I joined the ship for. My heart was thudding with a mixture of fear and excitement. This was a hundred times better than trailing around the overpriced shops on Trader Level with a grumbling chaperone.

Though the people were a shock. There were no shades of yellow, brown, black, or white here – everyone’s skin was grime-grey. All wearing rags pockmarked with holes which only showed more scabby tatters, or dirt-scurfed flesh. I’d tried to blend us in. We were all in scut-gear with worn overalls and battered workboots. But we stuck out like a supernova on a dark night. Mostly because we were clean and well fed, while everyone here was stick-thin. Even the kids

The Cap always says we English merchanters take care of our own better than anyone else. What if he’s right? Because I couldn’t recall seeing any children in this sorry state back in New London.

Sonja gave some creds to a pathetic, sunken-cheeked toddler sitting on the trash-covered floor and in no time flat we were mobbed by a bunch of snot-nosed kids. None of us could resist their pleading, so we handed out all our shore-leave cash. Of course, one of us should’ve kept an eye out for trouble. But we didn’t. And when the children scampered away, I looked up to see we were now ringed by another group. Far more grown-up and dangerous.

***

I can’t quite believe I’m here… It’s taken such a long time to get it all ready and on top of everything else, I’m still struggling with this flu. But I can’t tell you how excited I am to see the book on Amazon – I keep clicking on it just to have a look. I’ve crossed a line – gone from ‘going to’ and ‘want to’ through to ‘done that’. I am very aware in the scheme of things, this isn’t rocking anyone’s world except mine – that the average amount an author makes with their first book is less than the price of a meal for two in a halfway decent restaurant. But this feels huge and I want to thank everyone who has helped to make it possible.

 

 

 

 

Monday Post – 2nd October 2017

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

It’s been a crazy week. My Creative Writing course at Northbrook is going well – everyone has settled in and our classroom is one of the nice big ones with plenty of windows. We started filming this week on Tim’s major project at the Bognor Museum on Wednesday evening, which was a wonderful surreal experience, though exhausting.

When my writing pal Mhairi came over for the day on Thursday, I discussed my increasing concerns regarding Running Out of Space hoping that she would wave her hand and tell me I was making a fuss about nothing. But she didn’t. She nodded and agreed with me. So I went back to the script and made a MAJOR change to the world with less than a fortnight to go before the launch. It took a huge amount of work, but I got the manuscript altered, the new review copies out, extracts and guest posts altered and my shiny new website and Goodreads all updated. Once the dust has settled and I have a chance to fully process exactly what happened, I will be blogging about it. And then fell ill on Friday night as we were picking up the grandchildren.

On top of that the clutch on the car died in the middle of the week and my lovely sister lent me hers while ours went into the garage to be fixed for a lot of money I hadn’t budgeted to go on car repairs. Thank goodness we took the decision not to go to Fantasycon this year, though I am sorry not to be able to catch up with all the lovely people I only get to see then – and huge congratulations to Grimbold Publishing for their Award for Best Independent Press.

I spent the week-end in bed enduring a really nasty cold that has also sideswiped my sister – which is why this is a Monday Post, instead of a Sunday Post…

This week I have read:

The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once series by Cressida Cowell
Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests. Wizard boy, Xar, should have come in to his magic by now, but he hasn’t, so he wants to find a witch and steal its magic for himself. But if he’s got any chance of finding one, he will have to travel into the forbidden Badwoods. Xar doesn’t realise he is about to capture an entirely different kind of enemy. A Warrior girl called Wish. And inside this book, at this very moment, two worlds collide and the fate of the land is changed forever.
This new series from the author of the fabulous How To Train Your Dragon series did not disappoint. With all the plot twists and engrossing storyline I have come to expect from this wonderful author, there is also a beautiful lyric quality to the prose and more nuanced characters.

 

Healer’s Touch by Deb E. Howell
Llew has a gift. Her body heals itself from any injury – but at a cost to anyone nearby. In a country fearful of magic, freeing yourself from the hangman’s noose by wielding forbidden power brings dangers of its own. After dying and coming back, Llew drops from the gallows into the hands of Jonas: the man carrying the knife with the power to kill her – permanently.
I really enjoyed this fantasy adventure which takes a classic trope – the youngster growing up on the streets who is singled out by a unique talent – and then gives that premise a thorough shaking. Llew is an interesting protagonist with some scary powers that nonetheless won my sympathy, even though the right thing might be to ensure she can’t cause any more havoc… This one hasn’t left my head since I stopped reading it.

 

Shadowblack – Book 2 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell
It’s a few months since Kellen left his people behind. Now aged sixteen, Kellen is an outlaw, relying on his wits to keep him alive in the land of the Seven Sands. He misses home, he misses family and more than anything, he misses Nephenia, the girl he left behind. And when someone else turns up unexpectedly who carries a secret that’s all too familiar to Kellen. Kellen and Ferius resolve to help – but the stakes are far higher than they realise…
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Spellslinger, in this entertaining series – see my review here. The good news is that this offering is even better. More Kellen goodness along with the naughty squirrel cat who nearly manages to steal the show, despite a thumping good plot and a satisfyingly nasty antagonist – great stuff!

 

Austral by Paul McAuley
The great geoengineering projects have failed. The world is still warming, sea levels are still rising, and the Antarctic Peninsula is home to Earth’s newest nation, with life quickened by ecopoets spreading across valleys and fjords exposed by the retreat of the ice. Austral Morales Ferrado, a child of the last generation of ecopoets, is a husky: an edited person adapted to the unforgiving climate of the far south, feared and despised by most of its population. She’s been a convict, a corrections officer in a labour camp, and consort to a criminal, and now, out of desperation, she has committed the kidnapping of the century.
I love this one. The landscape, the situation and above all, Austral’s narration of the most turbulent, difficult time in her life to someone she cares about and wants to tell all to… This one held me until the last page and though not flawless, it is a gripping, moving book that will stay with me for a long time.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 24th September

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

Teaser Tuesday featuring Healer’s Touch by Deb E Howell

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Select – by Marit Weisenberg

Friday Face-off – Faint heart never won fair lady featuring Heartless by Marissa Meyer

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once series by Cressida Cowell

Apologies to those of you who have commented and are still waiting for a response. Hopefully normal service will be resumed next week… Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.