Blank: Madam Doesn’t Like That

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Zhanna Hamilton and her science fiction novel, Blank: Madam Doesn’t Like That.

Author’s description

The Blank Series:

A former human turned military spy bot escapes the oppressive Solar Government, leaving behind a secret that turns order into chaos. Now, she’s being hunted.

Blank: Madam Doesn’t Like That (Short Story 4 of The Blank Series):

An unexpected visit from sex bots turns into a secret mission with deadly consequences.

Guest Post

In my books I’ve always had one minor character who insisted on playing a larger role in the story. When I get the chance to ask another author if this happens to them, I always do. Enjoy Zhanna Hamilton’s answer. It appears her secondary characters misbehave worse than mine.

Razor debuts in my science fiction story, The Blank Series, as an untamed and uninhibited sex bot from a luxury strip club called the Golden Ratio. In the second installment of this femme fatale scifi series, she’s a vixen with her eyes set on Arlo Fuentes–who only comes to the nightclub to find out why his former-human-turned-military-spy-bot girlfriend left him.

It turns out, Razor has plans beyond chasing unavailable men.

She’s a fiery female force who helps the resistance against the totalitarian government, all while toying with men for her own amusement. When she coaxes me to write her, I already know it’s going to be spicy.

Razor practically cartwheels into her scenes with a “fun first, work later” attitude. I’m still discovering her limitations, because she rarely has them. This sex bot’s feral nature has helped her step into a bolder role than I initially intended for her. She’s unapologetic and willing.

Willing to do what, you ask? Anything, apparently.

Now that she’s established herself as an unconventional asset to resistance movements, I can’t help but think the Blank universe would be a bit boring without her.

I can already feel her positioning herself for a spin-off series, but I told her not to push it. For now, she’ll have to be content with wreaking havoc in the cyberpunk reality of The Blank Series. She’s convinced me that only a wild bot like her can help topple governments while in heels and still have time to torment her boy toys.

The Author’s Story

Zhanna Hamilton is a science fiction writer and the creator of The Blank Series. In May 2019, she released the first installment of the scifi series on Wattpad, “Blank: Begin Again,” which has been named in the top 100 list of femme fatale stories and chosen as an “Undiscovered Stories” Wattpad Pick on the independent storytelling platform–home to 90 million readers worldwide.

Find the Author

Readers and future readers can follow Hamilton on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZhannaHamilton.
Follow The Blank Series on Wattpad: https://bit.ly/TheBlankSeries
Follow Zhanna Hamilton on Wattpad: https://bit.ly/ZhannaHamiltononWattpad

Read the Book

Read “Blank: Begin Again (Short Story 1 of The Blank Series)” on Wattpad:
https://bit.ly/Blank-BeginAgain
Read “Blank: Where Do Machines Go When They Die? (Short Story 2 of The Blank Series)” on Wattpad:
https://bit.ly/WhereDoMachinesGoWhenTheyDie
Read “Blank: You Heard Me (Short Story 3 of The Blank Series)” on Wattpad:
https://bit.ly/YouHeardMe
Read “Blank: Madam Doesn’t Like That (Short Story 4 of The Blank Series)” on Wattpad: https://bit.ly/MadamDoesntLikeThat
The book will be Free during the tour.

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $75 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

There, on the grey bricks of a side street building was a graffitied image of blue hair and red lips. The first image bots see when they contract the Code. A look cloned by thousands who swore they were the real Blank.

He went somewhere in his mind, searching for a memory of her. A happy one. They all seemed sad now.

Where are you?

He looked away from the wall–but he couldn’t escape her. The farther they went, the more propaganda popped up. Painted on windows. Wrapped around poles. Scribbled on sidewalks.

BLANK IS AN ALIEN! BLANK IS A LIE! BLANK SHAPESHIFTS! LONG LIVE BLANK! WHO IS BLANK?

Zen met his eyes in the rearview mirror.

“Forget her,” she said. “You’re parallel lines now.”

He wanted to forget. To leave her behind as anonymous wall art.

How?

Thank you!

Zhanna Hamilton — we appreciate your sharing your book Blank: Madam Doesn’t Like That with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

The Clockmaker’s Tale

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Ian Williams and his science fiction story collection, The Clockmaker’s Tale.

Author’s description

In The Clockmaker’s Tale: and other stories, Ian Williams takes us to the near future and beyond. From a moon base where androids conduct experiments on human test subjects, to futuristic tours of the ocean depths that hide a terrible secret; from a society governed by harsh rule of law that is enforced by AI, to a humble clockmaker tempted by the promise of increased productivity through technological augmentation.

Covering issues such as environmental decay, the end of facts and proven truths, our growing waste problem, and humanity’s tendency to divide when we should come together, this collection of six science fiction stories relates as much to our time as it does to the many possible futures.

Planning for a Character’s Future

In my books I’ve always have one minor character who insists on playing a larger role in the story. So when authors visit my blog, I love to ask them if they’ve encountered such a character.

Ian Williams has encountered a couple of them, and one has even shaped his plans for future writing! He says …

Each of the six stories included in The Clockmaker’s Tale: and other stories was meticulously planned out in advance, so there really wasn’t room for characters to ‘misbehave’. I wanted to tell tight stories that had room only for what was required to share my views of current issues. That meant every character needed to stick to their roles and not deviate.

That is not to say that I haven’t been tempted to expand a character’s role. For example, in the story 10,000, many minor characters could tell their own stories in much greater detail. Each of these test subjects has lived through something quite horrific and getting their views on it would be interesting. Who knows, perhaps I will revisit a few of them in the future.

However, in previous projects, I have certainly encountered smaller characters that I have enjoyed writing so much that I just had to make their roles bigger. One of the most satisfying of which was a character from The Sentient Trilogy, called Phoenix. In book one she exploded onto the page with all the attitude in the world. She was fierce but also fragile.

I enjoyed writing the Phoenix character so much that not only did she become as important as the main protagonist, but she also became the main focus of book two. I felt that nagging sensation that this character had much more to say. So, I relented, and the trilogy was made better for it. She brought a much needed second view of events, one which came from an entirely different upbringing to that of the other characters in the story.

There is, however, another character that I feel that same nagging sensation over. In the story, Last Bus to Freedom, there is a character simply called Boy. In this story, Boy is secondary to the main protagonist, who the story follows. His role was as an apprentice to the much older Jason. Except, now that this story has been told, I still want more from him.

That is why I have made plans for his future. I would love to revisit Boy at a much later point in his life. I’d explore his time after the events of Last Bus to Freedom and find out what kind of man he has become. Did he learn all he could from the others or continue to make the same mistakes as before? And what of the war that rages in the story? Did it ever end?

So, I suppose you could say that Boy is refusing to remain a smaller character. He wants to be written about again because I want to write about him again. After all, that is the greatest of feelings for writers; that sensation of infinite stories and infinite people to fill them with. My only hope is that each of my characters gets to tell their story in the end. And I, for one, will look forward to writing them.

The Author’s Story

Ian Williams is a Science Fiction writer from the UK. He lives in a small town not far from London. Ian had a short career in the UK Court Service but was forced to quit that job when his medical condition worsened. Now, from the comfort of his wheelchair, he writes the stories he has always wanted to read. His writing spans lightyears of space, to near-future Earths; from small changes to society, to entirely new civilisations.

Find the Author

Author Website: HOME | Ian Williams Sci-Fi Author (ianwilliamsauthor.com)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ian-Williams-Author-Page-1552239548176515/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/iwilliams235

YouTube:  

 

Buy the Book

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B091FYYFBZ

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Returning to his briefcase, Alexander produced a card from an outside pocket. “Here,” he said, holding it between two of his fingers.

George took it and looked it over, now realising there was a sales pitch to follow. He’s better at this than I am, he had to admit. At the top of the textured card was the name of a company he was certain he knew but couldn’t quite place. “ACC?”

“Adaptive Cognition and Cybernetics. We specialise in cutting-edge, next-generation, technology. Our latest product was made for people just like you, who need more hours in a day than the good Lord provides.”

I left my work for this? George was less than impressed. “Thank you, but I…”

“Before you say no, how about I show you what I’m talking about?” Alexander picked up his briefcase and walked to the counter, where he placed it down and clicked open the catches. He kept his back turned until he was ready to present his product.

When he turned, George was immediately drawn forward, to inspect the object himself. He was fascinated by the curved design. It had a snowy-white casing, with delicately printed calligraphy underlined by a sweeping blue line, and a tiny, built-in, LED screen. It appeared as well-made as any of his clocks. Such a high degree of engineering, yet it remained a simple-looking thing.

“This,” Alexander said, not quite ready to hand over the device, “is our latest model. It’s called a Work Buddy.”

Thank you!

Ian Williams — we appreciate your sharing your book The Clockmaker’s Tale with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

Review: Dropnauts

I’ve recently gotten more involved in a professional society of science fiction and fantasy writers (SFWA) and through my volunteer work I’ve gotten to know a wider range of authors. It’s been a wonderful experience, and now I’m trying to read the works of some of my new online contacts.

J. Scott Coatsworth has a wonderful blog called Liminal Fiction. He writes mostly space stories mostly about queer people and describes himself as someone who “inhabits the space between the ‘here and now’ and the ‘what could be.'”

Skythane is probably his most famous work, but I decided to check out his most recent. Here is my review.

Dropnauts

Dropnauts is an intriguing story with a hopeful ending, and I have a fond spot for such tales. Though the first chapter throws an exploding spacecraft at the reader, be warned that this isn’t all action. A complex story follows. Stick with it through the build-up as it does sort itself out and soon you’ll be rooting for this unusual cast of four young people as they set foot on what they believe is a planet devoid of human life. It isn’t of course. We’re a more resilient species than that, and much of the story involves these dropnauts coming to terms with the survivors they meet.
Two small things took me out of the story. The dropnauts are barely in their twenties and if I were one of 12,000 surviving humans on a failing moon colony, I’d have sent a more mature group. Also, one pocket of survivors is truly cringe-worthy to an old feminist like me. You’ll know what I mean when you encounter them.
However, the book is also packed with things I loved. One favorite was the way the moon colony worked from afar to return Earth to livable status. Another was the intriguing involvement of AI entities. I enjoyed this part so much I would have liked more details.
Do I recommend this book to you? Well, it depends on what you enjoy. I liken this novel to eating crab legs. You have to work a bit at first, but what you get for your effort is well worth it. Me? I eat crab legs every chance I get, so, you know, I really liked the book.

 

 

Critical Hit

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author W.M. Akers and his mystery/thriller novel, Critical Hit.

Author’s description

How do you win a game that’s trying to kill you?

 

A twenty-nine year-old clerk at a games store in the Appalachian hamlet of Jett Creek, Tennessee, Callie Myles lives for the weekly RPG sessions run by her beloved brother and gamesmaster, LB. Under his watchful eye, she and her friends wage war, harness magic, and battle evil. When the dice are rolling, they are heroes, and all of Callie’s anxieties slip away. The fun stops the night LB burns to death in a bizarre fire.

 

Asked by her friends to keep the weekly game alive, Callie does her best to set her grief aside. She puts on the monocle LB wore during sessions and finds herself sucked into a life-sized recreation of her brother’s game. Inhabiting the body of her beloved character, the legendary Arabeth, she thinks she has found the ultimate escape. Her paradise is spoiled when she discovers that something inside the game killed LB—and one of her fellow players was in on it.

 

To save herself, to avenge her brother, Callie Myles must pull on her armor and beat LB’s game from the inside out. If she gets killed along the way, well, at least she’s having a great time.

 

A fast-paced hybrid of mystery and adventure, CRITICAL HIT captures the breakneck joy of tabletop gaming, where life and death depend on the whims of a plastic die. It will be on Kickstarter from May 25 to June 25, and available on DriveThruFiction and Amazon after that.

About the Author

W.M. Akers is a novelist, playwright, and game designer. He is the author of the mystery novels Westside and Westside Lights; the creator of the bestselling games Deadball: Baseball With Dice and Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG; and the curator of

the history newsletter Strange Times. Born in Nashville, he spent a lucky thirteen years in New York before moving to Philadelphia in 2019. Learn more about his work at wmakers.net.

Find the Author

Personal: wmakers.net
Newsletter: strangetimes.substack.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ouijum
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/wmakers?fan_landing=true
FB: http://facebook.com/ouijum

Kickstart Program

Book Kickstarter goes live on the morning of 5/25 at:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wmakers/critical-hit-a-gaming-mystery

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Somewhere far from Blackbriar Keep, a barricade of empty beer cans and crumpled chip bags ringed a plastic castle. On the white grid that represented its muddy courtyard, four one-inch miniature Heroes were locked in deadly combat with the dozen figurines that represented a Horde of thousands. They were beautiful little figurines, but all eyes were on the other end of the table. Nothing mattered but Arabeth.

She had one leg raised, her bowstring drawn taut, and a look of extreme do-not-fuck-with-me on her face. I’d spent twenty-two hours painting her, deploying all my tricks to bring her plastic to life. From her forest green boots to the curls of her rich brown hair, every millimeter was perfect. Tonight, perfect was what it would take.

It was April 2003, when tops were cropped and pants were cargo, when fedoras and trucker hats still seemed like good ideas, when America was already getting bored with its new war. More importantly, it was a Thursday, which meant the back room at Critical Hit was ours. Stale beer and smoke polluted the air. Imitation wood paneling peeled from a drop ceiling that was nearly as stained as the pea green carpet. The walls were close, or I guess the table was too big, because you couldn’t shift your seat without banging into one or the other. Absolutely no breeze drifted through the little window on the far wall. Grimy lace curtains hid us from the rest of the games shop. It was a pit, but it had to be the happiest pit on earth.

The man who brought magic into that little room sat at the head of the table. One hand rested on his gut; the other twisted a beard flicked with red ale. His eyes—one bare, the other behind that ridiculous monocle—were slits. A playful smile drifted across his face as he tried to figure out what might happen next. He looked like a big, gentle grizzly bear. A stranger might have mistaken him for just another geek. They’d never have guessed that my big brother was the greatest gamemaster in the world.

“You sure you want to do this?” he asked.

“I think I already have.”

Thank you!

W.M. Akers — we appreciate your sharing your book Critical Hit with us! Best of luck with this on Kickstarter, and with all of your future writing.

The Electric Girl

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Christine Hart and her YA/magic realism/sci-fi novel, The Electric Girl.

Author’s description

Polly Michaels is trying to forget that her mom has cancer. She keeps busy at school and plods through a normal social life. Until a freak electrical storm and a unicorn appear in the orchard next to her house.

Sy’kai wakes on an orchard floor to the smell of rotting cherries and wet earth. She doesn’t know where she is—or what she is—but she knows something is hunting her.

Polly recruits her friends to find the mysterious creature she saw from her window while Sy’kai, a confused shape-shifting endling from another dimension tries to piece her mind back together. Once the human girls find Sy’kai (whom they nickname Psyche) the mystery unravels and the danger facing all of them comes into focus.

A gritty struggle ranges throughout the girls’ rural hometown and in the wild terrain around it. All while two questions hang over their heads. Can an alien deliver a miracle for a human mother? Can a group of teens defeat an interdimensional demon?

About the Author

Christine Hart writes from her suburban home on BC’s beautiful West Coast. She specializes in speculative fiction for young readers. Her stories feature detailed real-world landscapes as a backdrop for the surreal and spectacular.

Christine’s backlist includes YA, NA, and MG titles, including the speculative trilogy The Variant Conspiracy. Her debut YA, Watching July, won a gold medal from the Moonbeam Children’s awards in the mature issues category and an honourable mention from the Sunburst Awards.

Christine holds a BA in English and Professional Writing, as well as current membership with the Federation of BC Writers and SF Canada.

She works as a content and communications specialist for a technology studio in Vancouver. And when not writing, she creates wearable art from recycled metals under the guise of her Etsy alter-ego Sleepless Storyteller.  She shares her eclectic lifestyle with her husband and two children.

Find the Author

Learn more about Christine and her books at www.christine-hart.ca.

My Thoughts on This Book

The Electric Girl not only surprised me, it reminded me of what a difference an author’s skill makes. I began the book disappointed to discover I was reading one more tale of high school students going through a portal and saving the world. Then I got to the second chapter and saw earth through the eyes of a frightened alien. Hmm. Not what I expected.

After she lays this groundwork, Hart tells her story by going back and forth between these two points of view. Her prose is engaging and her approach is downright clever. The tale may be almost as old as time, but she seldom resorts to over-used tropes and her characters remain likable and real. Even the alien. Actually, especially the alien.

I raced through this book and I recommend it to those of any age looking for a quick, fun story.  Grab a copy and take it to the beach. You’ll be glad you did.

Buy the Book

Amazon buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Electric-Girl-Christine-Hart-ebook/dp/B08RW676HV/

The book will be $0.99.

Yes, there are giveaways!

Christine Hart will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC. In addition, the author will award a $50 gift certificate to the author’s Etsy shop Sleepless Storyteller (https://www.etsy.com/shop/sleeplessstoryteller) and a $100 gift certificate to the author’s Etsy shop (International) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Polly crept softly downstairs and into the vaulted kitchen. In the window behind the double sink, her mom’s stained-glass butterfly reflected a glint of moonlight. Her gaze darted from the window to the sliding glass doors across the room, behind a small round oak table. A greasy takeout box and two plates of chicken bones on the counter—her mom’s only half-eaten—glistened in the faint light. She paused next to the table, gripped the padded back of a dining chair, and leaned toward the glass door. She peered out, across the backyard and into the orchard.

A large beacon of light flickered in the trees. It moved, as if floating. No, not floating—walking. The intense glow, marked by dark strips of trunk and branch, moved at a measured pace. She squinted, trying to make out an outline of . . . whatever it was that meandered through the trees.

It’s an animal. It has to be!

She lifted the latch on the sliding glass door and gently opened it. Chilly night air rushed in, smelling of ozone and the earth. Her flannel nightgown billowed in the breeze. She placed a bare foot on the smooth concrete of the patio. The cold was sharp and shot straight through Polly, causing her to gasp, but she forced herself to keep moving. She stepped all the way out and slid the door back into place, almost closing it but not quite.

The roving light in the orchard had grown larger. It was weaving between the dark rows of trees in the distance. The undulating pace of it . . . it wasn’t human. Whatever it was, it was moving—walking, she thought, but not on two legs.

Polly put one foot in front of the other, compelled by her need to know. She crossed the backyard, reaching the bumpy bare earth of the orchard floor. She steadied herself against a tree trunk as adrenaline raced through her veins. She leaned into the tree, hoping to conceal her figure without losing sight of the creature, whatever it was.

She waited, watching in both awe and terror as the glowing animal came closer. The creature made no sound at all. Polly watched, eyes trained on the glow itself, until finally she could make out a shape—a long, muscular torso flexed above four knobby legs. Pointed ears flickered.

It’s a horse! A white mare! Oh my god, she’s so bright.

The horse turned its head, flashing a spiraled horn—unmistakable against the dark branches around them.

NO WAY!

“Polly? Are you out there?” she heard her mom call. She turned to see her mom’s silhouette standing in the kitchen. Her mom flicked on a light, spilling yellow across the yard. Polly whipped around to see the unicorn again, but the orchard had grown dark, full of silent indigo trees.

The glowing animal was gone.

Thank you!

Christine Hart — we appreciate your sharing your book The Electric Girl with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

Love, in Writing

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Elsa Winckler and her romance novel, Love, in Writing.

Author’s description

A hardcore Science Fiction writer and a softhearted romance novelist clash on the sunny South African coast…

Margaret Parker is a hopeless romantic whose fantasies fuel her writing. For Graham Connelly, science fiction is the perfect genre to express his cynical worldview. A chance meeting in a lift leaves them both interested and aroused — with no clue as to the other’s identity.

Margaret has been looking for a face to match her new fictional hero — and Graham’s is it. Graham has been looking for proof that innocence and optimism still exist — and he’s found it in Margaret. But fantasy isn’t reality, and both Margaret and Graham are used to controlling their fictional worlds. Can they step off the pages long enough to find their own happy-ever-after?

Why a Science Fiction Writer?

I write science fiction and fantasy (and love to read it), so when I read the blurb for Elsa Winckler’s Love, in Writing and saw that her cynical hero wrote science fiction — I had to ask why. Here is her response.

Margaret Parker, the heroine in Love, in writing, is a romance writer. She’s kind and nice and she’s holding out for the fairytale and her own hero.

I couldn’t quite decide on the hero – it was looking for someone who would be her exact opposite. But what would he do? What will he be like? And why would she fall in love with him?

A few nights later Graham Connelly woke me up. Drop-dead gorgeous (of course), jaded, cynical about love and life and a science fiction writer.

I’m a die-hard romance reader, but while doing my Honours in English we studied William Gibson’s Neuromancer and although I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with science fiction I did learn to appreciate writing based on alternative possibilities.

Margaret has very particular ideas about what kind of man she wants to be with and it takes her a while to realize although Graham doesn’t fit into any of the molds she’s hanging on to for dear life, he is in fact exactly the kind of hero she’s been looking for.

About the Author

Elsa has been reading love stories for as long as she can remember and when she ‘met’ the classic authors like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James The Brontë sisters, etc. during her English Honours studies, she was hooked for life.

She married her college boyfriend and soul mate and after 45 years, 3 interesting and wonderful children and 4 beautiful grandchildren, they are now fortunate to live in the picturesque little seaside village of Betty’s Bay, South Africa.

She likes the heroines in her stories to be beautiful, feisty, independent and headstrong.  And the heroes must be strong but possess a generous amount of sensitivity. They are of course, also gorgeous!  Her stories typically incorporate the family background of the characters to better understand where they come from and who they are when we meet them in the story.

Find the Author

Website: www.elsawinckler.com
Personal Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/elsa.winckler
Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ElsaWincklerRomanceAuthor?ref_type=bookmark
Twitter: https://twitter.com/elsawinckler @elsawinckler
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6557709.Elsa_Winckler
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/elsa-winckler
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/elsawinckler/
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/elsaw1
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elsaw1/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elsa-winckler-1ab2a42b/

Buy the Book

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PCD16HZ
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/love-in-writing-3
BN: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-in-writing-winckler-elsa/1138396881
Itunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1542709299

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding copy of a short story to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.  Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

Read an Excerpt

Dumbfounded, Graham stared after her, then followed her. He looked down at her, trying to read her face, but she averted her eyes.

“Kissing you, letting you touch me the way you just did…”

She looked up at him, her green eyes reflecting…was it hurt?

“It’s a big deal to me, Graham.” Her eyes were bright with unshed tears. “I want what my parents had. I want the fairy tale. The romance, the love, the wooing, flowers, the forever. And you…” She took a deep breath. “It’s everything you don’t want. Please leave.”

At her words, Graham stepped back quickly. Margaret smiled a sad smile and showed him the door again. He walked out but when he turned around to say goodbye, she’d already closed the door softly behind him and was securing the lock.

Exasperated, Graham pushed his fingers through his hair. Forever. Where the hell had that come from? A fairy tale. And romance and flowers and what did she say? Wooing. Stupid word. Who still used the bloody word? And what the hell did her parents have to do with it? He had just kissed her. People kissed! It was normal, not a train smash. And it was just a kiss, wasn’t it?

But as he stomped down the stairs toward his car, he remembered how soft she’d felt beneath his fingers, how responsive she’d been. He could instantly recall the flowery scent of her perfume, remembered the sound of her breath and he remembered the sight of white lace cupping firm breasts. He groaned out loud.

She was right. He shouldn’t have kissed her. She wanted more, needed more. Hell, he wasn’t so jaded he couldn’t see that. And yes, she was right, it wasn’t what he wanted. He was the last man on earth who should be around Margaret. She deserved someone who would want to provide everything she wanted. He grimaced. He was not a candidate.

Thank you!

Elsa Winckler — we appreciate your sharing your book Love, in Writing with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

Neurogarden

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Bryon Vaughn and his science fiction techno-thriller, Neurogarden.

Author’s description

Where can you run when there is no place to hide?

Brenna Patrick is a brilliant technologist specializing in neural-cognitive functions and AI. She has cracked the code to solve one of the most troublesome problems in the field, and turned that into the multi-billion dollar NeuralTech Corporation.

Working quietly with the U.S. Department of Defense, NeuralTech is poised to leapfrog the competition with a revolutionary system for tracking people, starting with the world’s most wanted terrorists. But there are only so many terrorists in the world, so who’s next?

When a pair of Columbia graduate students, Jenny and Leo, stumble on the dark secret of NeuralTech’s success, it kicks off a tense game of cat and mouse. As they fight to defeat the powerful forces arrayed against them, nothing less than the fate of humanity hangs in the balance…

NEUROGARDEN is a roller-coaster ride of a thriller, one that will have readers pondering the nature of memory, and of reality, long after they’ve read the last page.

About the Author

Ever since reading Douglas Adams back in my formative years, I have had an interesting relationship with humor, science fiction, and technology. My first computer was a TI-99/4A, so yeah, I’m old, but only until scientists have cracked the code on transplanting our brains into shiny new vessels.

My body may be showing signs of wear, but I’m keeping my brain tight.

When I am not dreaming of far off worlds and writing, I am living a semi-normal life working in New York City, and watching movies with my wife and her spastic cat, Moss.

Find the Author at

Web site: https://www.bryonvaughn.com
Facebook: https://facebook.com/bryonvaughnauthor
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/bryonvaughn

Buy the Book at

Amazon Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Neurogarden-NeuralTech-Corporation-Book-1-ebook/dp/B08F7BWCDZ 

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

In a lonely pod on the 77th floor, Jenny floated. The only indication of life was a slow, rhythmic sway as the blue feeding solution swirled through the chamber, pushing through her body and out into the next in the chain. Her eyes closed to the world around her, a world she could no longer sense or interact with in any tangible way. Her body was there, but her mind had joined the others, and despite her ongoing confusion, she was now a resident of The Garden.

Her connection to the others came in ebbs and flows, their memories, their thoughts crashed into her own like waves on a distant, rocky shore, smashing at each other in an indiscernible mashup of sensation. In a moment of clarity, she wrapped her mind around her situation, how she had wrestled to free herself, the needle had plunged into her arm, the slow, sweet descent into slumber. Though the silent lucidity was fleeting, chased away, replaced by another barrage of brainwaves from the others.

–Welcome.

Somewhere in the melange, the chaotic furor of a thousand minds, there was a single voice, some kind of controlling singularity. Commanding attention, its words marshalled the disparate collective of thoughts, ever so briefly, into a cohesive direction.

–Welcome to The Garden.

“Who are you? Where is this place? Why am I here?”

–Time for that later. First, you must learn the rules.

Review: The Calculating Stars

Author Mary Robinette Kowal doesn’t know anything about me …. so it’s not possible she understood that when she wrote “The Calculating Stars,” she was writing the one book I could not possibly resist reading.

Perhaps she was aware of the many women of my generation and older who can still remember the landing on the moon, and the fervor afterwards with which so many people wanted to go do that, too.

Some of those who were watching knew they could maybe do this. And some of us knew we couldn’t. And some of us thought that fact was terribly unfair.

Star Trek was exploring strange new worlds back then, and they had room aboard ship for my idol Lieutenant Uhura, and for whatever female ensign Captain Kirk had his eye on that week. Jane Fonda’s Barbarella struck me as more silly than admirable, but at least she was in outer space, too.

So, after the first landing on the moon, I bravely declared to my mother that I wished to become an astronaut. She looked at me curiously, like perhaps I possessed some troublesome quality she hadn’t been aware of.

“Find a more realistic ambition,” was all she said. I never brought it up again.

When I was little, my father flew small planes. Yet, he seemed every bit as puzzled as my mother once was, when years later I told him I had started to take flying lessons. I was out of college by then, making okay money as a technical writer. This is what I wanted to do with those earnings. I thought he’d be proud.

“Okay ….. ” was all he said. Before long, he sent me all his study manuals on flying, with a simple note. “If you’re going to be a pilot, be a good one.”

It would be decades more before I learned that he once flipped a plane while trying to land it, and had never flown again. The story we’d been told as kids was that it “got too expensive” for him to fly.

And it is expensive. Much as I loved it, I clearly was never going to be a commercial pilot, much less an astronaut. Before too long I moved on to other, more realistic dreams.

Then along comes this book.

It’s not just about women in space, it’s about women my mother’s age getting to go. Give me a break. How does this happen?

Oh. The blurb says a meteorite hits the earth and threatens to destroy all life. That’s all it takes to get women in the 1950’s into the space program? Cool. Bring on the meteorite. (Just kidding. Of course.)

Forgive the long preamble, but I felt I ought to explain why, by the time I was on about page 20, this had become my favorite book of all time.  A little context can be helpful.

Now, for a more objective look.

Pilot and mathematician Elma York is well qualified for the space program and she wants to join it. Author Kowal recognizes the difficulties of creating a character with a brilliant mind who is also a highly skilled aviator, is beautiful, is well liked by her family and friends, and who has a loving husband as talented as she is.

Kowal gives her an Achilles heel to balance out her many gifts and to make her goal of getting into space more difficult. On occasion I thought she took this “little problem” a bit further than was believable for a woman who had accomplished so much, but it did work to make the plot more interesting, and to make Elma a more believable human.

She also chose to give her an ethnicity (Jewish, right after WWII), which I thought was interesting but less pertinent to the story. Perhaps it ties better into the previous short works, or it will tie more into the sequels?

Much of the beginning of the book has to do with the meteorite and it’s aftermath. This part is chilling, and incredibly well written. I could hardly put the book down.

The second part centers on the accelerated space program being developed to help save humanity. Here Elma York encounters the sexism of much of the military, but she also faces the ingrained, even almost silly sexism of the time period. (Astronettes? Really?) It rings true.

Luckily, she is surrounded and supported by a strong group of women, many of them fellow pilots and quite a few of them also women of color, who are facing a whole ‘nother set of unfortunate biases. These women have a handful of male allies (including Elma’s husband) and, to no ones surprise, eventually they all prevail.

Kowal accepting the Hugo award

Kowal does try to bring in details about how her society reacts to the climate change brought on by the meteorite, and in doing so she obliquely addresses our own society’s struggles with abating climate change. She doesn’t hit you over the head with the comparison, and it adds a nice bit of social consciousness to the story.

The book is suspenseful in that the reader wants to see Elma go into space and wants to learn how she does it. However, it lacks any large plot twists or deep philosophical ideas. (Both of those are things I love in books.) So I have to admit this is more of “just a fun story” about talented and good people getting to do what they ought to be doing. It’s a cheer along book, but instead of being about a little league team or some such thing that doesn’t interest me, it’s about women getting to what I always wanted to do. So. I really enjoyed cheering along.

 

 

 

 

And the winner, she is ….

The world of science fiction has changed. When my father introduced me to his favorite books decades ago, there was not a female author to be found. Not long after, I discovered Ursula Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm and Vonda McIntyre on my own. So, women could write this stuff. Well then, that was what I was going to do someday, because I ‘d already been told my first career choice of becoming an astronaut was “not realistic.”

It wasn’t many years at all before women did go into space. As I grew into adulthood, the list of women who wrote speculative fiction grew by at least an order of magnitude. In fact, it has now increased to the point where five of the six 2019 Hugo nominees for best novel were women. Wow.

One of the presenters was artist Afua Richardson, comic book illustrator for Marvel’s World of Wakanda

Check out the list of nominees below.

It should also be noted that Artificial Condition by Martha Wells took best novella this year; If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho won best novelette; A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow won best short story and best series went to Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers books. Yes, they are all women.

The Calculating Stars
Mary Robinette Kowal
Winner
Spinning Silver
Naomi Novik
Nominee
Revenant Gun
Yoon Ha Lee
Nominee
Record of a Spaceborn Few
Becky Chambers
Nominee
Space Opera
Catherynne M. Valente
Nominee
Trail of Lightning
Rebecca Roanhorse
Nominee

It’s hard to find a simple explanation for this change. One could guess it is because the world has become more welcoming to women pursuing dreams of all kinds. But that should result in something more like woman being half the nominees, not most of them.

It is true women that as a group tend to be more verbal than men.  (Yes, men tend to be more mathematical. I’ve no quarrel with statistics, only a quarrel with extending those generalizations into making assumptions about individuals, or to making assumptions about why the tendencies exist in the first place. Life is complicated.)

Anyway, today’s world of SFF writers could, in part, reflect the fact that women make up a larger percentage of the writing and the reading community in general.

Another theory is that society is more supportive of women then men who write variations of speculative fiction that shade into romance. This gives women writers (for once) a larger menu of styles and subject matter to chose from. I can see this perhaps accounting for a larger number of female SFF writers over all, but few if any of the female-authored pieces nominated for awards could be considered part of this hybrid romance genre.

Maybe it’s this simple. Most of the best SFF last year was written by women, and that’s that.

I was happy that my particular favorite, The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal, won best novel. For those of you not familiar with it, it is part of collection of stories (and two novels) set in an alternate world in which women were admitted into the USA’s initial space program. Guess you can see why I’d have a fond spot in my heart for this premise.

I watched Mary Robinette Kowal’s acceptance speech from my perch in the spotlights. (I was a volunteer running the spotlight for the show.) Astronaut Dr Jeanette Epps was on stage with her and it was a one of those weird maybe-all-is-right-with-the-universe-after-all moments. I loved it!

(Read more about my Worldcon adventures at An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!,  at Feeling at home, at A New Irish Experience and at Forward into the Past.)

 

 

What makes it a romance novel?

It happened again. I was reading along, really enjoying a novel described as science fiction. Then about three quarters of the way through, a side romance, previously hinted at, took over the plot, and much of the remainder of the story involved making sure these two hot people ending up having sex and, in this case, living happily after. Other threads were dropped or swept aside.

So. Let’s be blunt. I think sex is wonderful. I agree love is the greatest thing in the universe. I like it when people live happily ever after, or at least I’m allowed to think they will.  However, romantic love (in all its trials and tribulations) doesn’t carry a plot for me.

I like action, intrigue, and surprises. I enjoy puzzles, and profound thoughts.  So why do I end up reading so many romance novels and then complaining about it in the reviews?

It took a bad review of one of my own books to get me to understand. This reader found my novel Shape of Secrets on Net Galley. I had to pick a couple of categories for it, and I chose Fanatsy and LGBT novels. The story is about a gay human chameleon who has a romance with another man who struggles with prejudice his home country. The categories seemed reasonable. Coltostallion didn’t agree.

I’m going to start by saying that I didn’t like this book. I’m still giving it three stars because the issue is not that it wasn’t a good book, it’s just not a book I liked. I will also say that I, personally, would not consider this an LGBT book so much. Some might say any LGBT character means the book deserves this tag, but while the book contains romantic relationships I would not consider it romance and this is the same reason I would personally not consider it LGBT.

As for the story itself, it was well written and the plot is very interesting.

I understand. (I also appreciate the compliment.)

For although my main character falls in love and makes himself look like other people in order to save the day, the last part of the book … the climax if you will … is all about who murdered his boss and framed his friend. It’s about catching this person and bringing them to justice. Whether I like it or not, I didn’t write a fantasy novel or an LGBT one.  I wrote a murder mystery, and the people who will enjoy this book are people who like crime novels. The other parts are window dressing. My mistake.

I think other authors are having the same problem.

I’m trying to do more reviews on my blogs, and I wish to encourage and support independent speculative fiction writers, especially women, who historically have not been given as much of a voice. I also like strong women protagonists.

So I’ve been signing up to review any fantasy or science fiction I think fits that niche.

I know the biggest chunk of online book sales goes to romance novels. Primarily written by women and for women, they take place in ancient Rome and on Alpha Centauri. They involve murders, politics and philosophy. However, the climax (by this I do mean the most intense action in the last quarter of the book or so) is primarily about two beings realizing they are attracted to each other and overcoming obstacles so they can act upon that knowledge.

Little of that ending has to due with slave revolts, halcyon beams or lawyers’ closing statements (except as it furthers the ultimate hook-up). It doesn’t matter if they are vampires or live in feudal Japan. The emphasis makes it a romance novel, no matter where it takes place or what else the author calls it.

So why are so many women authors leaving the word romance out of their descriptions? Perhaps there is some stigma attached? There shouldn’t be, but maybe women prefer to tell themselves or others they read some romance, and some historical fiction. A little sci-fi. Does it feel more well-rounded?

Or is the story of two lovers finding each other so compelling to many women writers that they assume it is how all readers want the story to end?  Get rid of that pesky dragon revolt and let’s move on to the good stuff? The story’s not over till the two hot people f**k? Maybe it is simply how they view a story.

The sad result of this, as least to me, is that my average rating for women authors is well below my average for men. Even though I’ve sworn to read the blurbs carefully, and avoid romance novels in disguise, they keep creeping up on me.

On the flip side, I’m taking a harder look at my own novels, forcing myself to define what it is I’ve written. Sure there are blends and grey areas, but when it comes down to the action at the end, every novel reveals it’s reason for being.

What is it the main character wants more than anything? Justice? Freedom? Understanding? Health? Enlightenment? A second chance? The universe is full of things to crave, and I’ll keep seeking out books about women, men and imaginary creatures who want things that fascinate me.