Teaser Tuesday – The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy #sfrgtt

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This week I’m going to post a snippet from one of my earliest books, The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy. The book’s free pretty much everywhere.

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Cover of The Iron Admiral: ConspiracyThe Iron Admiral: Conspiracy

The galaxy teeters on the brink of inter-species war

Accused of an atrocity, ex-Admiral Chaka Saahren goes undercover to clear his name. Systems Engineer Allysha Marten, takes one last job to rid her of debts and her cheating husband. On Tisyphor, deadly secrets about the past explode, as Allysha and the undercover agent scramble to prevent the coming holocaust. When the ex-Admiral’s identity is revealed, she must come to terms with her feelings for a man she holds responsible for the death of innocent civilians, including her father. In a race against time, Saahren must convince Allysha to set aside her conflicted emotions and trust a man she barely knows to help him prevent the coming conflagration.

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In this scene, Allysha and Saahren are together in a secret garden, where they’ve found a commonly grown fruit tree. The question is – how to get at the fruit.

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She eyed the fruit hanging well over her head and his. “How do we get them down?”

“I’ll help you get into the tree and I’ll catch the fruit when you throw it down.”

He made a stirrup with his hands. “Here. I’ll hoist you up to that first branch.”

Balancing herself with her fingers resting lightly on his shoulders, she put her foot into his hands and pushed down. She slipped sideways. “I don’t think this is going to work.” She leant into him and started to giggle.

The scent of her invaded his nostrils; her breast pushed against his chest and set his pulse racing. Fruit. Think about fruit. He dropped his hands and straightened up. “I think you’d better turn around.”

“Okay. How’s that?” She stood next to him on one foot, one hand on his shoulder as he made a stirrup again, her foot grasped between his hands. She shoved down, trying to use his hands as a step but she ended up staggering against him, giggling helplessly. “That’s not going to work, either.”

He sighed and knelt down next to her, leaning forward a little to hide his erection. “Sit on my shoulders.”

She hesitated. “Are you sure? It won’t be a strain for you?”

“There’s not much of you. It won’t be a strain.” And at least he wouldn’t be in such intimate contact with her.

She swung a leg around his neck and settled herself down, hooking her knees under his arms. He stood, muscles bunching under the weight. “Okay?”

“Yes. You?”

“Fine.” He wished he was. He could smell her, female and alluring, his hands on her smooth skin, her parted legs around his neck. “Climb into the tree.” Please.

She grasped the branch and scrambled onto it, lifting herself with a foot on his shoulder. She turned around awkwardly and sat on the branch looking down at him.

“Go for the deep orange ones. Throw them down to me.” He raised his hands, ready to catch.

She reached up, wrenched the nearest off and tossed it to him. The over-ripe fruit splattered as it hit his hands.

“That’s one we won’t be eating.” He shook the sticky fragments away. “Do it gently or you’ll have to suck the fruit off my fingers.”

She chuckled. “Interesting thought.”

Far too interesting. He imagined her lips around his finger, her tongue… Concentrate, Saahren.

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A summer storm

A cumulus tower

A cumulus tower

Summer storms are a fact of life where I live. They seem to pop up out of a clear blue sky. This one is no exception. I hear it first, a low rumble in the distance outside my window. There it is, a vast cumulus tower, its curves bright white in the sun. A look at the radar shows we’ll probably be in its path.

5V3A0173 (1)

Here it comes

When the sky grows dark I go outside to watch its progress. The soaring thunderclouds are invisible now, the sky a uniform deep grey blanket except for that ragged leading edge, like fingers dragging a cloak of cloud in their wake. Lightning flashes all around me, sometimes high up in the cloud, making it light up inside, sometimes a spear of brilliance stabbing into the ground.

I count the seconds for the thunder. One… two… and then the rolling bouncing rumble like a bowling ball in the gutter. Or the sharp ear-bursting cymbal crash followed by a drum roll.

The very air is electric, making my skin tingle. There is no wind down here, but there is up there. The finger fragments have passed me, now heading for the sea. Now the first heavy drops of rain begin to fall, leaving a polka dot pattern on the hot paving. And with the rain comes the wind, bending the palm trees and swirling around the veranda.

5V3A0282

Lightning now well out to sea

I retreat under cover and watch the sky show as the storm surrounds us with noise and fury. Bolt after bolt of lightning hurtles down, thunder bangs and crashes while the rain beats down with an added timpani of hail.

The seconds between the lightning bolts and the thunder lengthen. The storm is gone almost as quickly as it developed, leaving 22mm of rain in as many minutes.

Not long after, the sun breaks through, bright as a searchlight on the trees. Of course there’ll be a rainbow. And there is, along with a brilliant sunset.

5V3A0303 5V3A0299 5V3A0298 5V3A0297

Science fiction romance – caught between a rock and a hard place

Talking about what constitutes ‘romance’ seems to be a bit like climbing over the fence into the lions’ compound knowing they haven’t been fed for a while. But I have to say I find the debate a little bit perplexing when it comes to the genre I mostly write – science fiction romance.

couple on the beach silhouetteOn the one hand, the born-again romance readers insist that without a HEA (happily ever after ending, for those not in the know) or at the very least a HFN (Happy For Now) then the story doesn’t qualify as ‘romance’. On the other hand there’s more than a suggestion from the science fiction fraternity (I use the word deliberately) that all that soppy love stuff doesn’t belong in science fiction.canstockphoto19778842

I’m not really a romance reader and I’d be the first to say that my stories are SF action/adventure with a strong romance arc. Mostly. I think. And we get back to the old question of genre.

Back in the very recent past we didn’t have a science fiction romance genre. You had a choice: science fiction or romance. So you took your chances. Have your book panned by the hard-line SFers who didn’t want any of the smulchy squishy stuff, or have your book panned by the romance die-hards who protested your story wasn’t a romance because it wasn’t the raison d’etre of the plot.

Let’s consider my latest effort, Crisis at Validor, because… just because.

Is it a romance?Picture of cover for Crisis at Validor

I’ve included the Romance Writers of America definition of romance.

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

  • A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
  • An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction. Click here to better understand the subgenres within romance.

Is it a love story? Yes. Two people who had been in ‘love’ in their teens meet up and find the ember still glows

Is it the main plot arc? I believe you can tell this by asking the question – if you take out the romance would you still have a story? And the answer to that (IMO) is also yes. (But the romance raises the stakes for both parties)

So it’s not a romance, it just has a romantic arc with a couple of non-specific squishy scenes. I think.

Is it science fiction?

Is it SF? When we’re discussing speculative fiction (which we are) Orson Scott Card gives a very interesting definition of the difference between science fiction and fantasy. “If the story is set in a universe that follows the same rules as ours, it’s science fiction. If it’s set in a universe that doesn’t follow our rules, it’s fantasy.” “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” p22. On that definition Crisis at Validor certainly is SF.

Is it hard SF? No, it’s not. It’s space opera which the purists consider to be ‘soft’ SF. But it is SF, with non-humanoid aliens with their own politics and their own problems, space ships, inter-planetary travel and the like. There’s no magic, even if inter-planetary travel is pretty slick. If you want an explanation, see my post on planet hopping.

But I’m sure as hell certain that with that cover and that romance arc, it won’t be popular with the ‘straight’ SF community. I recently saw a request by a prominent SF writer (female) who is collecting data for a degree. She wanted the names of women who have published in science fiction since 2000. That’s fine – but she very specifically states that she doesn’t want straight science fiction romance.

And that, folks, sums it up for me. Pick your cliché

  • rock and a hard place
  • devil and the deep blue sea
  • out of the frying pan into the fire

The fact is, we have to pick a genre when we publish. I’ve opted for the soft and squishy SFR option – and I firmly believe that if you can classify Romeo and Juliet, Gone with the Wind and Doctor Zhivago as ‘romances’ then there’s room for romance arcs that don’t necessarily end up as HEA or HFN. I’ve said before I see the SFR genre as a continuum, and I hold to that view. There’s room for all kinds of nuances on that line.

I’d love to hear your take on this debate.

Introducing Crisis at Validor – Ptorix Empire #4

Picture of cover for Crisis at ValidorIt’s always a little bit scary getting a new book out there. Much like launching anything, really. I’ve given it my best. It might be self-published, but it has been edited and the cover is professionally designed by the lovely Rebecca Poole of Dreams2Media. So here we go, the latest addition to the Ptorix Empire series. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. (The writing part is hard work, but I’m very happy with the end result)

Crisis at Validor

Newly-promoted Captain Brett Butcher is about to achieve his life-long ambition to command a battle cruiser. But before he takes up his new posting, he goes home on leave, hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of his first love, the unattainable Lady Tarlyn.

When the queen is assassinated in a terrorist attack, Tarlyn’s life is thrown into turmoil when she, too, becomes a target. The last person she expects to rescue her is her childhood sweetheart, Brett Butcher.

As Validor’s Ptorix and human populations face off over a group of islands neither owns, the calls for war grow louder. Torn between love, duty and ambition, Butcher and Tarlyn struggle to prevent an inter-species conflict, while the ember of love that has smouldered for so long bursts into flame. But with planetary peace at stake, both will be forced to choose; love or duty.

Buy the book at Smashwords Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo Apple

Happiness is a new camera #photo

When you get past a certain number of years on the timeline of life you don’t wait for birthdays to give yourself presents. I’ve had a Canon 550D camera for several years now, and it has served me very well, but I’d started to yearn for something better. My favourite subjects are moving birds and whales and there had been a few times when I’d thought I’d captured a stunner, only to find it was slightly out of focus, or fuzzy around the edges.This is an example. It looks great small, but blow it up to full resolution and it’s not quite there.

sea eagle

So when I discovered that a lot of photographers who published their work in National Geographic used the Canon 5D Mark III I went into lust overdrive. After a few sleepless nights I thought what the hell? You can’t take your money to heaven (or hell, for that matter). So I used some of my writing earnings and became the proud owner of a 5D.

It’s a whole new learning curve, but here are a few shots I’ve taken with it so far. I think it’s worth it already.

Hold on tight

Hold on tight

Coming in

Coming in

butterfly on rosemary

butterfly on rosemary

 

 

 

The aliens in ‘Crisis at Validor’ #amwriting

http://www.canstockphoto.com/golden-chinese-dragon-5632075.html

http://www.canstockphoto.com/golden-chinese-dragon-5632075.html

By now you all know I’m in the final stages of writing a new Ptorix Empire book. The title is Crisis at Validor and it features my decidedly non-humanoid alien species, the Ptorix. Readers will learn more about them in this book, but there will also be another, very different, alien species.

Way back when this book was little more than a bunny hopping around in my head I’d intended to write a story which included an ancient temple and something like a serpent, only smart. The berzhani have evolved since then. A lot of people don’t like snakes and while I don’t really understand the phobia, I know it’s real for many people. I’d discarded the idea of calling them dragons because this is not a fantasy and if people have preconceived notions about snakes, they have them about dragons, too.

Fire breathing, wicked, princess-eating, flying, telepathic, ridden by people, shape-shifters.

None of the above.

So about half way through the writing, I took some time off to go through pictures of serpents, serpent temples, dragons and the like, looking for visual inspiration. And I came across Jim Nelson’s fabulous work, particularly the top dragon on this page.

So the berzhani are rather like snakes inj some respects (sinuous and smooth) but they are not snakes. In Crisis at Validor the berzhani live in caves on an island that is an extinct volcano. That island has become an object of contention between the Ptorix and the humans of Validor. The planet has two continents, and each species inhabits one. They don’t mix. But neither owns Bherzan Island.

The picture top left is a reasonable representation of a berzhan. (It’s actually a statue of a Chinese dragon, but you get the idea.)

What you need to know about the berzhani before you read the book is they are very, very smart, with their own skills. Like whales and dolphins, they don’t need technology and they don’t want to rule the world. They just want to be left alone. But they have a big part to play in Validor’s story whether they like it or not.

Here’s a first cut of the blurb.

Crisis at Validor

Newly-promoted Captain Brett Butcher is about to achieve his life-long ambition to command a battle cruiser. But before he takes up his new posting, he goes home on leave, hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of his first love, the unattainable Lady Tarlyn.

When the queen is assassinated in a terrorist attack, Tarlyn’s life is thrown into turmoil when she, too, becomes a target. The last person she expects to rescue her is her childhood sweetheart, Brett Butcher.

As Validor’s Ptorix and human populations face off over a group of islands neither owns, the calls for war grow louder. Torn between love, duty and ambition, Butcher and Tarlyn struggle to prevent an inter-species conflict, while the ember of love that has smouldered for so long bursts into flame. But with planetary peace at stake, both will be forced to make a choice; love or duty.

Coming soon to an e-store near you.

PS. For those who know the Iron Admiral books, Butcher was Grand Admiral Saahren’s adjutant. And we also have a cameo appearance from Admiral Ulric Hudson of Starheart.

Every day is a new experience #photo

I haven’t been sleeping all that well of late. That’s not a good thing in some ways, but on the other hand, it means I’m awake before dawn, and I can pop on down to the beach to see what the sunrise has to offer. Mostly, I go to the same place each time, where a tidal creek runs out into the bay. There’s a large sandbar at that point and at low tide I can get brilliant reflections in still, shallow water.

It’s different every day. Clouds, wind, tide – they all make a difference. And sometimes I’m treated to some special little extras. So come on down and share my morning.

Rain over Fraser

Rain over Fraser

When I arrived the sun was well below the horizon. Rain was falling over Fraser Island.

IMG_9814The moon was gibbous waning, so I could capture its reflection in a pool. People were already out and about, walking their dogs in the cool of the morning.

IMG_9840Then the sun came up in glorious golds, while that rain band moved up the coast, giving us a sprinkle on the way through.

IMG_9846When I turned around, the rain cell and the sun combined to form a perfect rainbow.

IMG_9835And this last shot shows my friend the Brahmani kite out for his first flight of the day

Awesome. And all for free.

 

Had a rotten review? #amwriting

TeddyEverybody gets rotten reviews. It’s part of the territory. Your first one or two star is a coming of age, your movement from beginner to seasoned veteran. I’m not going to lecture you on survival techniques. The world and his wife has done that already. I’m usually a subscriber to the DO NOT READ THEM school. Let’s face it, there’s nothing useful you can do  about it, anyway. For lots of very good reasons.

But there’s one teensy bit of advice I will share. How many of you remember John Locke and his best-selling ‘how-to’ book, How I sold 1 million ebooks in 5 months? That was in 2011 – or at least, that’s when I bought mine. It turned out that he bought quite a lot of his success by buying reviews and there was a huge scandal. But setting that aside, his advice on bad reviews was well worth reading. As I recall, he said that if the review is not coming from your target audience, shrug and move on. If you have a fan base, and those people like your work, that’s really all that matters.

Take it to heart, writers. Snuggle up in bed with that little teddy of truth hugged close.

One of those times, a watershed

IMG_9589Good heavens, it’s 2015 already. Whodathunk?

December 31st 2014 has, at the stroke of a clock, become January 1st 2015. It’s one of those times, a cusp, a watershed. Or so it would appear. We have to remember to put 2015, not 2014, when we write a date, and when our birthdays arrive we’ll be a year older.

But – I hate to be a wet blanket – nothing really changes. The days proceed. Sunrise will be about a minute later until the winter solstice, sunset a trifle earlier. Or the other way round if you’re in the northern hemisphere. Where I live the stifling summer heat and humidity will give way to the peaceful days of autumn. Maybe where you live the snow will melt, the days will lengthen and the buds will swell, the promise of new growth. Somewhere in the world people will find new ways to fight disease, develop a new application for the mobile phone and discover more fascinating facts about the universe we live in. Somewhere in the world there’ll be a war. Planes, will crash, terrorists will strike, rivers will flood, cyclones will wreak havoc.

Same old, same old.

Maybe this holiday is best used as a period of reflection, a brief pause in the cycle of time. When it comes down to it, the only thing we can really change is ourselves. Sometimes that can mean a huge difference to the rest of the world, sometimes not.

I don’t do the resolution thing. Time is an arbitrary construct, something we use to make sense of our lives. But I have a few small goals.

  • Get my weight back to 60kg not for cosmetic reasons, but because I don’t like being overweight
  • Publish at least two new books, because writing is better than joining a bowls club
  • Enjoy life and don’t fuss about things I can’t do much about because what’s the point in stressing?
  • Take more pictures because I love to capture moments of time and imprison them forever

Thank you to everyone who has read and enjoyed my books – especially those who have told me so. It’s nice to know I’m not just writing for myself. The new book is nearing completion. I’m hoping for a release in February or March. Thank you, too, for stopping by my blog. Do call again.

Best wishes to you all.

A year of bookends #photo

So. What do I have to show for 2014?

A refurbished house

A brief whip around the Whitsundays (fodder for the latest book – still in progress)

What are you doing in our house?

What are you doing in our house?

The possums and the lorikeets are in dispute about ownership of the big nest box in the palm tree. On the basis of ‘needs must’ one of the other nest boxes is now called home.

 

 

 

 

 

One-eye and his mate

One-eye and his mate

One of the pairs of lorikeets setting up house includes the little guy with only one eye. He’s been around since the event that cost him his eye. He recuperated here because it’s safe and the food is easily available. Hopefully this pair will raise a chick.

 

 

 

 

Note the broken beak

Note the broken beak

We have a resident white ibis with a handicap – a 5mm section has broken off his lower beak, making it hard for him to compete for food with others of his kind.

 

 

 

 

 

1 book (Kuralon Rescue) and 1 Novella (A Matter of Trust)

And, of course, a bunch of pictures.

To say goodbye to 2014, here’s a month-by-month gallery of photos. They were all taken either at sunrise or sunset. That’s why they’re a year of bookends. Enjoy.  Oh, by the way, they’re all copyright.

2014 01 copy2014 02 copy2014 03 copyStart of an Autumn day2014 05 copy2014 06 copy2014 07 copy2014 08 copy2014 09 copy2014 10 copy2014 11 copy2014 12 copy

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