WWW Wednesday 22/02/2017

WWW Wednesday

I first saw this meme on Cookie Break with Sarina Langer but it’s hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words and I thought it would be a lot of fun to try out. So let’s get started.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Picking up the tale of Kvothe Kingkiller once again, we follow him into exile, into political intrigue, courtship, adventure, love and magic … and further along the path that has turned Kvothe, the mightiest magician of his age, a legend in his own time, into Kote, the unassuming pub landlord.

Packed with as much magic, adventure and home-grown drama as THE NAME OF THE WIND, this is a sequel in every way the equal to its predecessor and a must-read for all fantasy fans. Readable, engaging and gripping THE WISE MAN’S FEAR is the biggest and the best new fantasy novel out there.

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Why, oh why, has it taken me so long to get around to reading this series? I keep seeing people complaining online about how long it takes Rothfuss to write these books but writing of this standard does not happen overnight. Beautiful prose, excellent world-building, fantastic attention to detail. I loved the first book and I’m loving this one too. I highly recommend them.

What have you recently finished?

asian-monsters

Here be Monsters! They lurk and crawl and fly in the shadows of our mind. We know them from ancient legends and tales whispered by the campfire. They hide under the dark bridge, in the deep woods or out on the great plains, in the drizzling rain forest or out on the foggy moor, beneath the surface, under your bed. They don’t sparkle or have any interest in us except to tear us apart. They are the monsters! Forgotten, unknown, misunderstood, overused, watered down. We adore them still. We want to give them a renaissance, to reestablish their dark reputation, to give them a comeback, let the world know of their real terror. Asian Monsters is the third in a coffee table book series from Fox Spirit Books with dark fiction and art about monsters from around the world.

Asian Monsters edited by Margret Helgadottir. I’ll be giving a full review of this next week but don’t wait that long to buy it! Beautiful to look at and beautiful to read, the stories flow together very well and I’ve discovered some new authors to add to my ever-expanding TBR list! Featuring work from writers such as Ken Lui and Alliette de Bodard, this is a wonderfully put-together anthology, an excellent example of what small presses can do.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Bellica: a pagan fantasy novel (The Third Age Book 1) by [van Loon, Katje]

Conspiracy. Magic. Courage.

All Bellica Yarrow wants from life is to stay the course. Her military career fulfills her childhood dreams and affords her a freedom royalty never did. Yarrow doesn’t need anything more than the steadfast friendship of her Major, Caelum, and her Chief Medical Officer Jules.

The Goddesses have other plans, however. They set in motion events that threaten the bellica with madness and despair. Constancy has been Yarrow’s standby, but betrayals on every side push her further into chaos. She watches the puppet-Empress, her aunt, destroy the country, and dreads the day Zardria, her power-hungry twin sister, takes the Sceptre and rules openly.

Should Bellica Yarrow keep her military oath, or topple her sister’s cruel regime? Can she?

The choice is nearly impossible. The longer she equivocates, the more she risks the lives of everyone she holds dear. Meanwhile, Zardria has her own idea of how events should unfold – and what Yarrow doesn’t know could cost the bellica her life.

My TBR list gets longer every day but I think that I’ll probably read Bellica by Katje Van Loon next as this is the next choice for my Reading Around the World Challenge. I have not read anything by this author before but we are online acquaintances and I’m excited to read this.

 

I have joined the Amazin Associates programme – this means that if you purchase a book after following the link from here, I’ll receive a small payment. Nothing will actually change in the way that I write here – I’ve been linking to books on Amazon ever since I started this blog.

Guest Post: A Tale of Three Plots

taya

I’ve got a fantastic guest post for you today from indie author, Taya Greylock. Already Comes Darkness, the third volume in her The Song of the Ash Tree series is now available for pre-order from Amazon.

 

A Tale of Three Plots

Or, In Which I Have a Conundrum, Solve It (Huzzah!), and Offer Sage Advice

 

Plot A has been lounging in the office of my brain for some time now. He seems content to wait, confident in the lack of competition. If my attention is a doctor, he’s the lone patient—and as long as no one else sees the doctor first, well, the wait doesn’t matter, does it.

Plot A is perfect. He checks all the boxes, hits all the ingredients:

  • A dash of history
  • Heaps of mythology
  • Stir to heart’s content

And while I’ve perhaps played a little hard to get, kept him waiting, I’ve been glad to know he’s there. He’s not going anywhere, you see, because he’s Mr. Right.*

* Yes, I’m mixing my doctor’s office, cooking, and romantic metaphors. Get over it.

But suddenly Plot A is no longer vying for my attention alone. In fact, despite his patience, he cannot be certain he’s even first in line.

Plot B is new and fresh and a bit unwieldy, not to mention wild. Plot B stormed in on a wave of righteous anger fueled by current events. (It may not surprise you to learn that Plot B has had an allergic reaction to Cheetos.) Plot B is mysterious (I don’t quite know what to do with him), dangerous (he’s far outside my strike zone), and extraordinarily tempting. As all Bad Boys are.

I haven’t yet extracted all of Plot B’s ingredients, so I really don’t know what boxes he checks, but he presents a challenge, one I think I should confront.

Plot A and Plot B have been mingling uneasily now for far longer than they would like. Plot A insists he’s the one, then gives Plot B the stink eye when he thinks I’m not looking. Plot B delights in A’s anxiety but inwardly questions whether his allure is enough to win me over. No adorable bromance here.

To make matters more complicated, Plot C waltzed in, unexpected, brimming with new car smell**, and oblivious to the stir she’s caused. Yep, Plot C is undeniably a she.

** I actually strongly dislike the smell of new cars, but let’s pretend that’s not true for the sake of yet another metaphor.

 

Plot C is an odd breed; she blends the attractive qualities of both A and B. She has all of A’s ingredients and more than a little of B’s mystery and exoticism. She would be both familiar and unfamiliar. But she hasn’t yet convinced me she’s made of enough substance to be anything other than a flight risk.

What Plots A, B, and C seem unaware of is that Plot Z actually snuck in before the office of my brain was open for business, wreaked havoc for 25,000 words, then crawled into a corner and has been sleeping peacefully ever since, rather like an exhausted puppy with large paws.

To Plot A’s despair and consternation, the office has become rather crowded, the line quite convoluted.

To recap: Mr. Right is feeling queasy, Monsieur Dangereux is a bit miffed that he hasn’t swept me off my feet already, Lady New Car is cheerfully provoking both of them, and there’s a puppy in the corner that could wake up at any moment.

 

The point of all this?

How should I choose what to write next?

Put more broadly, how do writers make these choices? What goes into that decision?

In a matter of days, my trilogy will be fully published. The project that has consumed me since October of 2013 will be entirely out of my hands. I’m not moping over the loss of this companion. I’m thrilled to finally have all three books out there in the hands of readers. To be honest, I’ve felt pretty distant from the story for probably about a year now—and I mean that in the best way. I care about it, it means more to me than I can probably ever put into words, and the last round of edits on book three late last year reminded me just how much it matters, but I’ve been able to let go. It doesn’t belong solely to me anymore.

I say this to make it clear that I’m not dragging my feet about what to write next because I’m still hung up on the story, characters, and world I created for The Song of the Ash Tree. If you’ll pardon me for extending the romantic metaphor once more, those three books are now a past relationship and I’m okay with that.

I’m ready to move on—but I don’t know what to move on to.

 

I’ve heard that a writer should try to forget her ideas and that it’s the idea that refuses to be forgotten that needs to be written. I’m a big believer in this. But I do have some issues with it: it’s kind of abstract and it doesn’t take into account the reality of being a self-published writer today.

There are a lot of mantras about how to be a successful self-published author—too many, actually—but one thing that can be backed up by statistics is the fact that publishing more frequently is undeniably helpful.

So how long is an intrepid writer, the heroine of this story, supposed to wait for those other ideas to be forgotten? How does this lofty ideal fit into her publishing schedule, which apparently is insisting on multiple books a year?

To be fair, I don’t think this advice about ideas is the same thing as waiting for the right idea. Waiting implies endlessly bemoaning the absence of a muse. If we all did that, we’d never write a word. But I do think there’s something—okay, A LOT—to be said for just sitting down and writing. Something. Anything. I subscribed to this advice while drafting all three books in The Song of the Ash Tree. I established a daily writing habit and I didn’t concern myself with perfection (that way lies madness) until after the first drafts were complete.

But the story for The Song of the Ash Tree is a unicorn in the sense that I KNEW I was supposed to write it. It actually was the idea I couldn’t forget and for the first time ever in my writing life, I felt like I was writing a story only I could write. The moral here is that I don’t think I can use The Song of the Ash Tree as my guiding light in deciding how to determine which plot I should pursue next. It’s an anomaly, an outlier. Which means I need to rely on other instincts and information to make my choice.

In short, I need to discover which plot is both right and right in this moment—if that makes sense. I need to know which plot I can sink into and enjoy and feel good about, while also being a plot that doesn’t require coddling and magic potions I don’t have, because, guess what, I have a schedule—not to mention a day job.

So, to return to the office of my brain: Plot A, Plot B, or Plot C? Which one deserves to emerge from the crowd?

I’m going to let you in on a secret.

Are you paying attention?

I don’t think it matters which plot I choose.

This appears to fly in the face of everything I said above (and it might, I can’t tell). Let me finish.

What matters is that I choose.

I have to commit. No more waffling, no more arguments and counter-arguments.

Despite being a unicorn, there is no doubt that The Song of the Ash Tree taught me to commit. And I believe I can do that again. I believe in my ability to write a good story, regardless of which plot I choose. I also believe in my ability to wrangle a non-compliant plot into surrender because I’ve done that.

I just need to put words to paper. I need to begin.

And you can do that, too. No matter if you are a new writer, just exploring your story inspiration, or an experienced old fart with a dozen or more books to your name, we all have to start in the same place: on a blank page (try to ignore that devilish, winking cursor as it stares up at you).

Now, excuse me while I go follow my own advice.

Curious about which plot wins the battle for my affections? Check back in a couple months and I’ll let you know.

Flash Friday – Midnight Carpet

Flash Friday

Welcome to Flash Friday! I hope you enjoy the story and have a great weekend!

Gregor paced the small room, checking his watch for the tenth time in as many minutes. What was keeping them? Usually the night shift was quiet but he just knew that the night he was away from the desk would be one night a resident wanted something. He looked at his watch again. Almost midnight. He would wait five more minutes. If they hadn’t arrived –

A surreptitious knock sounded at the servant’s entrance.

‘Yes?’ hissed Gregor through the door.

‘It’s Samuel and Frank,’ came a muttered reply. ‘Hurry up and let us in!’

Gregor opened the door and stepped back. Two men were in the stairwell, a rolled-up carpet slung between them.

‘What took you so long?’ he demanded.

Samuel shot him an angry look but didn’t answer. He was flushed and out of breath from the climb to the top floor.

‘Where do you want it?’ Frank grunted.

‘This way.’ Gregor led them to the bedroom where had already turned on the lamps.

Samuel and Frank heaved the carpet onto the middle of the king-size bed then stretched and rolled their shoulders, sighing in relief. Gregor crossed himself then took out his pocket knife and cut through tape around the carpet, allowing it to flop open. There, looking grey already, was Mr. Hendricks.

Gregor shuddered, closing the sightless eyes of his employer’s body. He took the old man by the shoulders while Samuel took his feet and they lifted him, allowing Frank to pull the carpet out from beneath him.  Gregor and Samuel lay the body on the bed, pulling the duvet up as if their employer was sleeping. Frank lifted the paperback that was lying on the bedside table, The Hunt for Red October, and placed it beside Mr. Hendricks outstretched hand, as if he had fallen asleep reading.

‘When is Mrs. Hendricks due back?’ Samuel asked.

‘Henry is picking her up at the airport at six-thirty. They should be here by quarter past seven I should think,’ Gregor answered, looking around the room to make sure everything looked right. His eyes fell on a pair of checked pyjamas folded neatly on a chair in the corner.

‘Does he normally wear pyjamas?’ Gregor asked.

‘How the hell would I know a thing like that?’ Samuel snapped.

‘Well it seems kind-of important if we want it to look like he died in his sleep!’

Frank cursed and turned his back on the other two. Gregor pinched the bridge of his nose and thought. Would something as small as whether or not he was wearing pyjamas really make any difference? Then he thought of Mrs. Hendricks with her big heart. Always a kind word for the staff. He remembered how she had arranged for Sue to get a scholarship so she could go to private school. Anything that might make Mrs Hendricks doubt what had happened was a problem.

‘The pyjamas must be lying out because he wears them. We better put them on him,’ Gregor said with a sigh.

‘Are you kidding me?’ Frank snapped. ‘He’s getting stiff already. How we gonna do that?’

‘Do you want Mrs Hendricks to come home and wonder why her husband was sleeping naked if that’s not his habit? Maybe start to wonder if someone else was here?’

Frank glared at Gregor but instead of arguing, he stomped over to the chair and grabbed the pyjamas. ‘Give me a hand then.’

Samuel hauled the old man into a sitting position while Gregor and Frank struggled to get the pyjama top on him. Mr Hendricks’ limbs were getting difficult to move but they hadn’t quite set into full rigor mortis yet. By the time they were pulling their boss’ trousers up, Gregor was panting and a light sheen of sweat covered his brow.

As the three men trooped out of the bedroom, Gregor turned around and looked over the room one last time. The lamp glowed softly, casting the old man’s face in shadow. It looked for all the world as if he had fallen asleep reading. As if he was still sleeping now. The enormity of what had happened hit him and Gregor tried to swallow the lump in his throat. He had never cared too much for the old man but Mrs Hendricks, she was a classy lady. Gregor knew that she would probably move now, to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. He would miss her.

Samuel had brought in a bag and was putting the old man’s clothes in the laundry room. A flash of black lace caught Gregor’s eye and he grabbed the pile of clothes from Samuel before he could drop them in the basket.

‘What’s this?’ Gregor said, waving the black bra at the other two men. ‘All of this trouble and you nearly blow it by leaving this with his clothes?’

‘I’m getting really tired of your preaching Greg,’ Frank muttered. You didn’t exactly do the hard part of the job, you know what I mean?’

‘Think of the lady. You want Mrs Hendricks to figure out her husband spent his last night with his mistress? Died in bed with someone half his age? You think she deserves that?’

‘Maybe she ought to know he wasn’t exactly as pure as the driven snow!’

‘Just get out of here. I’ll finish up and make sure you didn’t miss anything else.’

Gregor hustled Frank and Sam out the back door with the carpet and then went through the apartment, carefully checking every detail he could think of. The bra, he stuck in his pocket until he could get rid of it.

 

It was a little after seven forty-five when Mrs Hendricks walked through the lobby, towing a little suitcase behind her.

‘Can I help you with that, ma’am?’ Gregor asked, getting to his feet.

‘Not at all, Gregor. I can manage,’ she answered with a smile.

Gregor couldn’t bring himself to smile back at her.

His shift finished at eight but he stuck around, taking his time with paperwork that didn’t really need completed, watching an ambulance and then the police arrive and go upstairs. Eventually, the bustle died down and the body was taken away and Gregor made his way up to the Hendricks’ apartment.

Mrs Hendricks opened the door when he knocked.

‘I just came up to say I’m sorry, ma’am. Is there anything I can get for you?’

‘Just some company Gregor. It’s early in the day but will you take a whisky with me?’

‘Of course, ma’am,’ Gregor answered, stepping into the living room. ‘What … what happened?’

‘It seems he died in his sleep. My poor Bert, all alone like that.’ Mrs Hendricks covered her face and began to sob.

Gregor put an awkward arm around her shoulders, comforting her as she wept for her husband.

 

If you enjoyed this please do leave a comment  – feel free to leave a prompt for the next story! Fancy something a bit longer? Ashael Rising is available now!

Review – Blood Shackles: Rebel Vampires Book Two by Rosemary A Johns

blood-shackles

Some months ago I read and reviewed Blood Dragons, the first book in the Rebel Vampires series so when I got a chance to read the sequel I was happy to do so.

As with the first novel, there was a lot of slang and it felt like too much. For the first few chapters I found it very distracting – especially when M.C. speaks. After a while however I got involved enough in the story that I didn’t notice it so much, except for the scenes with M.C.

The book shares the same narrative form as the first – Light addresses his words to ‘you’, the ‘you’ in question being another character. In the first novel that was Kathy, with Light giving her tales from his early life and recounting how they met. In this second volume, ‘you’ is Grayse Cain, Light’s mistress, and the story is given in the form of a journal that Light keeps, directing his words to Grayse. I was skeptical at first that this narrative form would work a second time but I actually ended up enjoying it more in this novel.

Light recounts how he became enslaved by the Blood Club, the Cain family business. As can perhaps be expected, there are scenes of violence and torture, as well as sexual violence, which some may find difficult to read. These issues are dealt with tactfully and add to the work. Defanged and broken down by his captors, Light tries to hold onto himself and find a way to save his family – all while falling for his mistress.

Reading a sequel is always a bit nerve-wracking; will it be as good as the first? Will you still care enough about the characters to follow them through another novel? In this case, I actually ended up enjoying the sequel more than the first book, not an easy thing for the author to have accomplished!

Note – you do not need to be familiar with the events of Blood Dragons in order to read and enjoy Blood Shackles but the second volume does contain spoilers for the first.

Interview with James Flynn

james-flynn

Today I’m sharing an interview with James Flynn, author of Conservation.

  1. Hi James, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name’s James Flynn, I have a love for gritty science fiction, and my recently published novel is called ‘Conservation’.

 

2. Tell us about Conservation. Do you have a favourite  quote or excerpt?

I have chosen to share this excerpt with you because it captures the evil and deceit that I tried so hard to create throughout the book. This chapter focuses on a character called Dolph Veale—a warped, dangerous crew member on board Conservation—as he receives a video call from earth. His ability to lie and manipulate others is displayed best in this section I think.

 

CHAPTER 6

     Unusually for him, sleep still had a grip on Dolph as he sat in the dingy depths of the control room. His night had been filled with wild dreams of eruptions, violence and glory, and he felt high from the visions that still drifted past his eyes. On the exterior, he still appeared sharp and well presented nonetheless and was ready to take on the task that was required of him. His silvering hair looked crisp and neat, and under the blue-green lights of the control room he had the appearance of a man half his age. He sat in the main station of the vast control room unit, perched in a large padded swivel chair in front of a sea of dials, waiting for the switchboard to start indicating an incoming signal from Earth. He knew full well how he was going to conduct this call, and he was using the last remaining minutes to prepare himself for some of the awkward questions that may be asked of him. Something very unexpected happened. The red neon light underneath the huge screen in front of him started flashing prematurely.

     He glanced at the clock a few rows below it—0852 a.m. GMT. He stared at the flashing light in puzzlement. It was highly unusual, if not unheard of, for Earth communications of any kind to be forward or behind the hour, even by a few minutes. He swiftly ran through some mental lines one more time and then hesitantly leaned forward to answer the call. The air around him was suddenly filled with bustling, crackling noise as the speakers kicked in.

     “Dolph? Dolph, are you there?”

     It was the voice of Damien Lowe.

     “Yes! I’m here! What are you doing calling the main control room for fuck’s sake? I’m expecting a call from Planet’s Reach any minute now!”

     Damien sounded worked up. His heavy, panting breaths shot through the intercom jarringly. “I’m sorry I…I couldn’t reach you on your normal line. Something’s…something’s not right, Dolph!”

     Dolph was furious. “What are you talking about? What’s not right?”

     He waited impatiently for a reply, but all he could hear was muttering and stuttering while Damien struggled to get his words out, choking on his own breath like a hyperventilating child.

     “Hurry up! I’m getting ready for an important call!”

     “W…we’re less than a mile south of the control room. W…we were on our way to the meadows and…”

     Damien paused to catch a breath.

     “Yes? And?” cried Dolph, watching the digital clock as it switched over to 0856 a.m.

     “There’s…There’s dozens of them…there’s…there’s fucking swarms of them!”

     “Swarms of whom?”

     “Outsiders! They’re advancing north and coming this way. They’re just a few hundred yards away from us now!”

     The sheer enormity of the situation would’ve been too much for most, but Dolph upheld his calm equanimity. Despite his swimming head and the imminent video call, he calmly ran through the corridors of his mind and dealt with the situation that was upon him.

     “Radio back to supply sheds and have them gather up everyone we have, including all the plantation workers. Get everybody armed up, and let them know your exact position so they can head out there with you. In the meantime, stand your ground and form a barricade. Keep them back as best you can, and I’ll be with you shortly.”

     “OK, I’ll get to it,” replied Damien. His voice was echoed with shouting and distant cries.

     The clock switched over to 0900 a.m. He knew that the intercom would start flashing any second now. He sat patiently in the neon glow of the dials and monitors, and right on cue, the red light started to flash up like a beacon among the surrounding blue hues, indicating that the call was coming through. If Dolph felt excited when he’d woken this morning, right now he felt ecstatic. His eyes were ablaze with fire and life; he felt galvanised from within. He leaned forward and confidently answered the call. There was a moment’s interference, and then a voice rang through the line.

     “This is central HQ; do you receive?”

     There was no video link just yet, just a voice emanating from the speakers.

     “Receiving loud and clear,” said Dolph.

     “Switching over to video link.”

     “Ready. Switching over now.”

     The large monitor burst into life up in front of Dolph, illuminating his neat, shaven face. There was an office, with two men at a large desk. One looked well-groomed in an immaculate-looking suit, and the other was an overworked looking man with glasses, peering through the screen at him with an intense level of curiosity.

     “I presume you are…Mr Veale?” said the suited man.

     “Yes, that’s correct.”

     “This is Paul Tringley, and sitting next to me here is my projects manager, Mr Adam O’Donnell.”

     For the ten seconds or so that the video link had been up, Dolph had already sized the two men up, peering deep into their souls for any signs of habits and weaknesses. He’d already worked out that the two men were in contrast to each other and that there was a certain amount of tension in the air between them. As they spoke, he continued to mentally strip them, assessing what they were worth.

     “We’ve been informed that you have kindly volunteered to take the call. We very much appreciate you taking the time to do this,” said Paul.

     “It’s the very least that I could do.”

     “It’s come to my attention that our interaction with you guys over there has been very limited. Mr O’Donnell is of the opinion that more personal contact with the ship from now on would be a good thing.”

     Dolph was surprised and delighted by the way that Paul Tringley came across. He carried a casual attitude that he hadn’t expected to see from someone within the higher echelons of the Mining Agency. This one will be easy to win over.

     “It’s a pleasure for all of us to be part of such a pioneering venture like this, and we’re all willing to do whatever we can to help.”

     Paul was nodding away while the other man was preoccupied, apparently looking around for someone.

     “We can see from the latest report that the ship is running its course very smoothly although we thought a video call would give us a better insight as to what was really happening up there among the crew,” said Paul.

     Dolph worked his magic, speaking mostly to Paul Tringley. He answered everything that was asked of him whilst simultaneously answering nothing at all. The formality of the call helped him to avoid certain subjects, and the unprofessionalism of the man who’d introduced himself as Paul Tringley eased his process of deception. Adam O’Donnell had hardly uttered a single word to him, and for the next ten minutes he only joined the discussion here and there, trying to push Dolph for a clearer picture on the ethos of the ship. At some point during the call, a third man came through the door behind them both. Dolph watched intently as he entered the room, knowing that he may have to deal with him as well and answer some of his questions. He didn’t look as executive as Paul and Adam did; he was dressed in a more casual outfit with an old satchel under his arm. Paul seemed to take this as a cue to round up his questions and leave, leaving Adam to take over. As the projects manager organised himself, Dolph glanced down at the clock and wondered how events were unfolding outside the control room. He considered it tragic that he wasn’t able to witness the action.

     “Erm, Dolph, from what I can hear, things are going well up there for you and the crew, but what I really wanted to get from this call was an insight into what the morale was like at the moment. I seem to know plenty about the cultivation figures but very little about the crew itself. So, how’s the politics up there on the ship?”

     Dolph studied Adam curiously as his twitching face illuminated the screen. Despite his fragile appearance, he seemed to have more of a desire to find out the inner workings of the ship, and it was this that forced Dolph to raise his guard.

     “We’ve formed a very close-knit team up here over the years, as you might expect. We’ve all seemed to have settled into a comfortable way of life, where everyone’s needs are catered for. It really is a beautiful thing. We all manage well with maintenance, too. We’ve discovered that the best way to maintain morale is to keep well on top of things in advance; that way things don’t get too strenuous.”

     Dolph knew that his unfaltering eye contact was having an effect on Adam. The man was starting to retreat into his shell, hesitating to push him any further than he might have otherwise done. Adam nervously adjusted his glasses and continued.

     “Well, morale is very important. I mean, our main objective is to keep the ship running healthily and to keep morale high. It’s vital that we do that to ensure the success of the mission. We…err…we’d also like to speak with other crew members in future, I think. Is there anybody else over there now? In the control room, I mean?”

     Dolph’s mind was alive with vivid images as he imagined the carnage that must’ve been taking place just outside the control room where he sat.

     “It’s just me in here today, unfortunately. I was hoping that there would be more of us here, but it was decided by the crew that I should take the first call, as some of the others are taking care of stock.”

     The second gentleman who’d entered the room a few minutes ago awkwardly hovered around the room behind Adam, not wanting to intrude on the discussion.

     “And how about the scheduled study time in the library? Are you all managing to get enough rest and leisure time?”

     “The library is a treasure chest of knowledge that we all appreciate, Mr O’Donnell.”

     Adam saw something in Dolph’s eyes and recoiled, though he didn’t mention it.

     “I, erm, I couldn’t help but notice that the wildlife reports have been a little vague lately, Dolph. Have you been surveying the animal population closely enough? The wildlife’s ability to live on Conservation will determine whether we will include animals on further projects in the future.”

     “The wildlife here is abundant. You must understand that our farming duties take up a lot of our day, but I’ll make a personal effort to spend more time on it in future if that’s what you want. We all understand that certain tasks must be adhered to, Mr O’Donnell.”

     Adam now seemed to be looking over his shoulder towards the other man in the room, gesturing for him to sit down next to him.

     “It needs to happen; it really does, but as for the wildlife, this man here is the one we need to speak to. Dolph, this here is Mr David Kingston. He is a donator to the Conservation project, and all of the wildlife on board the ship Conservation project, and all of the wildlife on board the ship Conservation originated from his stock. He is a well-established zoologist, and he would appreciate a few minutes of your time if you would be so kind?”

     Dolph let out a discreet sigh, realising that his questioning wasn’t yet over and that he was going to miss yet another ten minutes of the glorious bloodbath that was surely erupting outside.

     “Of course,” he said.

     “Thank you, Dolph.”

     He watched as Mr Kingston sat down. He seemed to be embarrassed by Adam’s flattery and had an air of humility about him. He had neatly combed white hair and a slim face that was rosy in colour. The zoologist looked like he was around sixty years old and obviously had a kind of classical English taste. He wore a tweed waistcoat with a pale collared shirt underneath and trousers to match. In many ways he looked like the stereotypical zoologist—reserved and slightly introverted. He appeared animated on the big screen in front of Dolph, as if his whole life had been leading up to this call.

     “Good morning,” he chimed.

     “Good morning to you,” replied Dolph, feeling like a spider luring in its prey.

     He knew that this man would have a lot of specific questions to fire at him, but he also knew that he would be putty in his hands.

     “From what I can see in these reports, it looks like the ecosystem is in a fairly good state. Are all the forests flourishing well?”

     The man’s words were brimming with class. To Dolph, he looked out of place among the technology in front of him. He looked like a throwback from another era, like he’d been teleported back from the nineteenth century perhaps. He would’ve looked better sat in an old Victorian house somewhere. Are all the forests flourishing well? His mind once again drifted, this time towards the southern end of the ship, towards the terrain that he had not laid eyes on in decades, where outsiders who refused to take part in his brutal regime had been left on their own to rot.

     “We’re all thankful for the beautiful surroundings that we’re treated to up here. The sights are superior to what most of us have ever seen, even back on Earth.”

     Keep it vague.

     He held David’s gaze and felt as though he had him in his grip.

     “Oh, I’m sure they really are superior compared to what we have left here on Earth now,” replied Mr Kingston with more than a little irony.

     “I’m sorry to hear that.”

     “That is the grim truth, I’m afraid. I think you all made a wise decision by boarding that vessel when you did. Mr Veale; here on Earth, due to the numerous extinctions that have occurred over the years, we have very little wildlife to actively study. Certain species are now completely lost to us forever. Colleagues at my foundation have requested information on the population of green-winged macaws on board the ship. The reports do not contain any data on these particular birds, but a colony was introduced to the habitat prior to the ship’s launch. This is a matter of importance to us as they all went extinct here on Earth many years ago. We are simply unable to study these birds first-hand on Earth, and we are very hopeful that the batch that was released on board Conservation have survived and flourished.”

     David’s grey eyes flickered with hope at the prospect that the ship may still be harbouring large colonies of these birds. He leaned forward, pushed his thin wire glasses up a little, and continued.

     “If there are colonies of these birds on board, close study and documentation of the species is of the utmost importance, Mr Veale. We would love to know about their coexistence with other animals on board, as well as the impact artificial gravity has had on them. We have a generation of students back here on Earth who have only textbooks and videos in which to study green-winged macaws, and we’d all love to be able to monitor some remaining living specimens.”

     Dolph had no choice but to admire David’s passionate enthusiasm.

     “I assure you that it will be treated with the utmost importance by all of the crew.”

     “Now, according to the notes in front of me, the greenwinged macaws were originally introduced towards the southern jungles of the ship. I imagine somebody must know if they’re still around there?”

     Dolph once again tried to picture the wild squalor that must’ve been present in the southern territory by now, and then pondered the possible war that could be raging in the closer vicinity. It was time to round up the call; he now simply had to attend to the matter outside.

     “I’ll ask the relevant people if we can get some crew members together and attend to this, Mr Kingston. I’m very eager myself to see if we can find some of these beautiful birds. I shall consult the library for reference and then put the word out accordingly.”

     He now spoke to David in a conclusive tone, suggesting that he was ready to end the conversation. David backed up and obeyed—manipulated by Dolph’s powerful presence.

     “I am very grateful for your cooperation, Dolph. Do keep us informed.”

     David awkwardly looked up and met Adam’s gaze, as if asking him to take over. Adam dropped what he was doing and sat back down.

     “Well, we all thank you for your time, Mr Veale, and I will look forward to receiving the wildlife reports. I also think that we should continue to conduct these calls as the ship reaches a point of no return.”

     “I agree. It will be a pleasure that we will all look forward to,” Dolph replied.

     “Yes, I’m sure it will. Do remember what we have discussed today, and we will conduct another call in four weeks’ time. We’ll be sending a confirmation message over shortly with the exact date and time. Thanks again.”

     “Thank you,” said Dolph, ending the call.

     He sat in stunned silence, staring at the tall blank monitor in front of him as it once again displayed a plain blue screen, illuminating his puckered skin with its glare. A mellow silence rang through the air around him, with just the buzz of screens and computers complementing it. He was feeling glory, bordering on elation. Deep inside his veins an adrenaline surged through him, but he still could not quite bring himself to move. His years of commitment had finally led him to this point, and he was determined to savour the moment as best he could. Electricity charged the air like the calm before a storm; he had so dearly hoped that this day would come. He took deep breaths, and through heightened senses tried to capture the moment and imprint it upon his memory. Finally, he dialled Damien’s number on the large panel in front of him. He answered on the first ring and sounded out of breath and panicky—even worse than he did before.

     “We’re in big trouble! There are hundreds of them…fucking hundreds! It’s some kind of ambush. We’ve managed to keep them back out at the edge of the plantations, but they just keep on coming.”

     Damien was not a man who panicked easily, and so the distress in his voice was all the confirmation Dolph needed that his day had indeed arrived. He rose to his feet with a newfound relish as the sound of toil and struggle blared from the speakers.

     “I’m on my way.”

 56956591_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_4968255.jpg

 

3. What inspired you to write this story?

I think I’m a bit of a pessimist at heart, and so my predictions for the future are quite often grim. I worry about the future of the planet regularly, and so I thought I would harness my worries, put them all together, and then use them to create an apocalyptic, dystopian vision.

 

4. Do you have any other projects on the sidelines?

I have a second novel in the pipeline that I’ve been working on for about a year and a half now. It is set in a fictional city in the future, and has many different themes running through it. This one explores a plethora of different subjects including the pharmaceutical industry, cryonics, and cloning. Like Conservation, this one will be a disturbing read, although the two books are very different. I hope to have it finished by the end of 2017.

 

5. What draws you to science fiction?

I think you have to write about what interests you, and I’m interested in science. I’m always reading about things like astronomy, evolution, and advancements in biology/medicine and things like that, so when I think of new ideas they are usually science fiction based. I’ve thought about writing a fantasy novel but I like there to be a bit of plausibility, so I haven’t yet committed to such a venture.

 

6. Who or what is your writing inspiration?

Funnily enough, I’m massively inspired by authors who don’t really write science fiction. Thomas Harris has had a huge effect on me with ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘Hannibal’, and Bret Easton Ellis’ ‘American Psycho’ will be a book that I always remember. I’m drawn to dark, evil themes and characters, and always try to create antagonists who chill readers to the bone.

 

7. What do you do if inspiration won’t come?

I first decided to write a book in 2012 with Conservation, then in 2015 I began my second book after having a second idea. I’ve already got a vague idea for a third novel, so I suppose a complete lack of ideas and inspiration hasn’t happened to me so far. That’s not to say it won’t happen though, so maybe if I run out of ideas I’ll just stop writing until something does come to me.

By the time I finish my third book it will probably be about 2020, so maybe I’ll just have a rest! I’d rather write just three decent novels instead of dozens of mediocre ones anyway.

 

8. What’s our favourite part of the writing process and what do you dread?

I think I prefer writing the rough drafts more than the final edits. By the time I’m writing a final edit I will have already gone through each section of text several times, and the whole process starts to become torturous. Reaching the last sentence of Conservation and pressing save was a happy moment for me. I was full of relief.

 

9. What’s your biggest distraction?

I suppose its got to be social media—or just general laziness.

 

10. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I like to do a certain amount of planning before I commit to writing a novel just so that I don’t end up wasting my time on something that will never work, but I find that once I start writing, one idea leads to another and the book can end up writing itself.

 

11. Tea or Coffee?

Tea all the way. I’ve never drunk coffee and there’s no point in me starting now as it’s not really that good for you. For about seven years now I’ve been drinking green tea, and I’ve never looked back.

 

12.What are the most important three things you’ve learned about writing, editing or publishing (or all of the above!) since you started your journey?

1- Know your characters and settings, even if you’re not going to include everything you know about them. If you don’t know that much about your characters it will show, no matter how much you try to hide it.

2- Everything takes ten times longer than you think it will.

3- Writing your book and getting it published is only about 10% of the work. You will then be faced with the gargantuan task of marketing it and getting people to read it.

 

13. What’s your favourite quote about writing?

‘We are all stuck inside a prison of words.’

 

14. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t wait until tomorrow, do it today. And be prepared to work for years to get to where you want to be.

 

15. Where can we connect with you?

Twitter is the best place @james__flynn (that’s two underscores!)

I also have an author page on Amazon—just search for ‘Conservation by James Flynn’.

There is a Conservation Facebook page.

Also, if you like artwork you can see a gallery of my drawings and paintings on Deviantart—

artistjames.deviantart.com

Interview with Me!

IMG_20160313_132359

I’ve been doing lots of interviews and guest blog posts this last few weeks to promote the launch of Ashael Rising and it occurred to me that my regular blog readers might find it fun to read one of the interviews.

So, I bring you the interview I did for Claire Patel-Cambell. You can see the original and check out her blog here:  https://scriggler.com/DetailPost/Opinion/53893

You can also see a post I wrote about for her about speculative fiction here: http://phaedracalliope.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/why-speculative-fiction-guest-post-by.html

Here’s the interview!

1)      Tell me a bit about yourself

I live in the west of Scotland with my husband and three children. I love spending time in nature and much of my writing is inspired by that. I love music and used to play the violin. I daydream about having a library in my house.

 

2)      Tell me about Ashael Rising (include a quote if you like)

Ashael is an apprentice medicine woman in a hunter-gatherer society. Her people are threatened by the return of the Zanthar, invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force from others. When the Zanthar kidnap her friends and demand that Ashael exchanges herself for them, she must discover who and what she really is to save her people and all of KalaDene.

 

3)      Where did the idea for the novel come from? How long did it take you to write?

The idea came from a dream I had about 9 years ago. I was a warrior fairy, fighting in a war against evil magicians who were enslaving my people. None of that actually made it into the book but the final image – flying above a desolate and war-torn land – stuck in my mind and formed the seed which eventually became Ashael Rising. It took me about a year and a half to write the first draft, three months to write the second and then four months or so of edits back and forth with Unbound.

 

4)     What’s on the cards next?

I currently have three projects lined up. Over the next several months I’ll be writing for and editing an anthology of short stories by Unbound authors. All the stories will be in some way linked to a library. In between bouts of working on that, I’ll be finishing a novella I started writing in November, called The Longest Night. It’s about a tribe living in the arctic equivalent in their world when the sun does not rise after mid-winter. After that, I’ll be starting on the sequel to Ashael Rising.

 

5)     Tell me about your creative process. How do you approach your writing?

My usual glib answer is that I sit down at the keyboard and wait to see what words fall out. I am the very definition of a pantser, sometimes having only the vaguest of ideas about what I’m going to write next. The first draft of most things feel like I’m channelling the story from somewhere else. It’s not until I begin editing that I feel as though I start to shape the work.

 

6)      How long have you been writing fiction? Have you always had a novel waiting to get out? What other kinds of writing do you do?

I started writing fiction as a child and dabbled with it on and off through my teens. Eventually life got in the way and I stopped for a long time, only going back to it in 2014. I have always had a great love of books and writing one has been on my bucket list for as long as I’ve had a list. As well as the novel, I blog, write reviews and write flash fiction.

 

7)      How do you balance your family life with your creative life?

I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out! Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect balanced yet. Sometimes I’m really focussed on the writing and I feel like I’m neglecting my family and other times my focus is on them and my work takes a back seat. I try to work when the kids are asleep or otherwise engaged and fit my writing into little pockets of time when no-one needs me. I haven’t found a new routine yet since I had my baby 8 weeks ago.

 

8)      What made you decide to write a fantasy novel?

I actually think this was inevitable. Although I read widely, fantasy has always been my favourite genre so it seemed natural that I would write that. I don’t think I made a conscious decision.

 

9)      What are you reading at the moment? What’s next on your list?

I am reading The Fireman by Joe Hill and Asian Monsters, an anthology edited by Margret Helgadottir. Both are excellent books – I have to tear myself away from them to get any work done! I highly recommend them. Next, I expect to read Bellica by Katje Van Loon.

 

10)   Which writer(s) do you most strive to emulate? Why?

Stephen King for his character building. He is a master of writing well-rounded, meaningful characters.

George RR Martin for his complexity of story.

Brandon Sanderson for his world-building. Even his short stories are totally immersive.

If you could combine all those things I think you would have the best genre writer ever.

 

11)   What’s your favourite book of all time? Why?

I have to cheat, because it’s The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I love it. I love the characters, the fact that it’s an epic fantasy in a western setting, the way it sits over all of King’s other work. I love the themes of ka-et and ka as a wheel. The whole thing. I’ve read all of the books several times and I enjoy them more each time., I’m sure I’ll continue to go back to them.

 

12)   How have you found the crowdfunding process with Unbound? Would you do it again, or go down the “traditional” route?

Crowdfunding was like nothing I’ve ever done before. It was incredibly stressful and exhilarating and overwhelming. I do intend to submit the rest of the Kaladene books to Unbound as well as the anthology I mentioned above so, unless they don’t want me, I will be doing it again. I’m hoping it’ll get a little easier as people get invested in the series.

Having said that, I do have other ideas (such as the novella) that I would consider taking elsewhere, or even self-publishing. I think it’s a good idea for authors to have more than one income stream. I can see myself being a hybrid author, doing a bit of indie and a bit of trad publishing.

 

13)   Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere. In nature, in funny things my kids say, in pictures I see on the internet, in laundry, in music… I could go on and on.

 

14)   What helps you get out of a creative slump?

Often switching what I’m working on will help. So when I was writing Ashael Rising if I was struggling I would write a flash piece or a short story. If that doesn’t work then stepping away altogether does. Doing something physical is best  – going for a walk or getting stuck into the housework. Sometimes I put music on and dance about the house with my kids. That type of thing always refreshes me so that the next time I turn on the computer I’m ready to write again.

 

15)   And lastly, just for fun, if you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be?

Stephen King – but then I’d probably be too star-struck to speak to him!

 

 

You can connect with me at:

Blog: www.shonakinsella.com

Twitter: @shona_kinsella

Instagram: shona.kinsella

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ashaelrising/

Ashael Rising is available for purchase at: http://bit.ly/ashaelrising

 

 

 

WWW Wednesday -08/02/2017

WWW Wednesday

I first saw this meme on Cookie Break with Sarina Langer but it’s hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words and I thought it would be a lot of fun to try out. So let’s get started.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

asian-monsters

I am currently reading Asian Monsters, an anthology of stories about the monsters of Asia. This is the third in the monsters series from Fox Spirit Books, edited y Margret Helgadottir. I’m not getting as much time to read this a I would like because the size makes it awkward to hold while I’m feeding the baby – which is just about the only time I sit down for any length of time unless I’m working. The stories that I’ve read so far are wonderful and the book is beautifully presented. I’ll be writing a full review of this, so expect to hear more about it.

 

What did you recently finish reading?

I finished reading this last night and it was fantastic. This was the first Joe Hill book that I’ve read. I’ve always been a little wary of reading him because I’m a massive fan of his dad and I didn’t want to judge him by those standards. Turns out there was no need to be nervous, he’s a very talented writer. The Fireman is a fairly long book but it kept me riveted all the way through.

An apocalyptic story of a virus called Dragonscale which ultimately causes its host to self-combust, the book focuses on pregnant school nurse, Harper Grayson. I felt that she was a well-written and compelling protagonist. In fact, all of the characters were well-written. There were plenty of moments of beauty and humour despite the fact that the world was falling apart. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

Vice Womb Age by [Alston, M Colin]

I will most likely start reading Vice Womb Age by M Colin Alston next as it’s next on m review list. From the blurb, I’m interested in how the technology of the nanoparticles works and I’m curious about the matriarchal religious order.

Have you read any of these books? Do you want to? Leave a comment!