It’s always subjective (even when you think it can’t be)

1282745If you’re reading this you’ll know I write books and take photographs, not necessarily in that order. And although they’re both creative, they’re very different pursuits. In this day of Indie publishing, the exhausting task of trying to interest an agent or publisher in one’s work is no longer an issue. And just as well, too. I’m too old for that shit. Besides, agents always only consider what they think will sell. Which, I suppose, is fair enough. In the past publishers were willing to work with an author to hone a rough diamond into a polished gem – always assuming they recognised the rough diamond. It’s a subjective process, you see. Agent/publisher – author interaction, agent/publisher perception of what will sell, agent/publisher perception of how much work (money) would be needed to rework and polish.

The business of accepting a photo for sale on a stock photo site is a little bit different. Certainly  the aim of these sites is to collect images that people will want to buy, so sites like Dreamstime explain that they have lots of sunsets and sunrises. They’re pretty, but one can have too much a good thing. And that’s understandable and completely in line with the bookseller’s perspective of “will it sell?” On top of that there’s the privacy and proprietary concerns. No images of (recognisable) people without a model release. No picture of inanimate objects with some sort of proprietary identification, such as really famous buildings, sculptures, logos and even one stand-out house boat in a canal in Amsterdam.

However, photographs are required to have a high level of technical quality. No blurry images, no grainy textures where the photographer should have used a longer exposure or a lower ISO. Visible scratches or dirt marks. Overuse of filters or Photoshop fixes. Or any number of other perfectly legitimate issues with quality. The big stock photo sites can’t afford to have below par photos for sale. I’ve been selling pictures for about four years now, and I’ve learned what they’ll accept and what they won’t. A picture can look great on Facebook even if the focus isn’t quite right – but don’t bother submitting to a stock photo site.

Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? So you’d think that if one site is happy with the quality of a photo, another site will be, too. Actually, that’s not the case. I sell my photos on Dreamstime and on Canstock. Both sites have refused photos on technical grounds that the other has accepted.

5V3A4000

You can buy this on Dreamstime – but not on Canstock

You can buy this one from Canstock but not Dreamstime

You can buy this one from Canstock but not Dreamstime

It’s very, very easy to be over critical of one’s own work. I found fault with this one, for example, and it was literally years after I took it that I thought, “what the hell?” Both sites accepted it.

Wildflowers brighten the Pilbara landscape

Wildflowers brighten the Pilbara landscape

The other day, on the premise that if you don’t ask you don’t get, I sent Dreamstime three of my sunrise photos. Four years ago, they’d rejected a couple I thought were nice on the basis that they had plenty like that, only better. I was expecting more of the same, but to my eternal astonishment, they accepted all three. Here’s one.

A person takes the dogs out on the tidal flats as the eastern sky brightens

A person takes the dogs out on the tidal flats as the eastern sky brightens

 

So what should you take home from all this? Very often a judgement is an opinion, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t give up just because one person says it’s not what they’re after. Don’t take every one-star review to heart. And stop beating yourself up. There are plenty of people out there eager to do that for you.

 

Bathing in danger

I rescued a miner bird from the swimming pool the other day. I heard it splashing in the water, trying to hang on to the lip just below the overhanging edge. If I’m not around, and the hoses for the pool cleaner are not in the water (they weren’t) that’s a death sentence. But I did hear, and I went and scooped the little creature out with my hand. It’s warm this time of year. The bird just needed some time to dry off then it could rejoin its extended family. A few of them flew over to see what the rescuee was squawking about. I like to think they knew it was me and told it off for getting wet.

Ah yes, getting wet. Although I have a bird bath next to the swimming pool, the miners seem to prefer taking their chances with the big blue pool. And most of the time, they pull it off.

Picture of a Noisy Miner Bird bathing

Thanks for the bath

 

 

 

 

 

 

But not always. I rescued this one in the nick of time.

Picture of a very wet bird

It was late in the day and rather than leave it for the predators to find in the night, I put it into our very large shed to dry off overnight. Next morning it was fighting fit, and squawking at the window to get outside. When it continued to ignore the gaping door (big enough to fit a car) I went and caught it in my hands and took it outside myself. Looking back, that was a huge vote of trust. We’ve had miner birds fly into the shed and been unable to find their way out and we could not catch them. It’s an enormous space, with a mezzanine floor and plenty of places to hide, so the fact this little bird allowed me to catch him in my hands was… awesome.

Australian miner birds are often mistaken for the feral Indian mynah bird. Really, the only comparisons are the yellow eye and the family behaviour. Mynahs are introduced members of the sparrow family. Noisy miners are indigenous honeyeaters. And yes, they are very, very noisy when there’s a predator around. Even so, I like them.

How to create a photo sequence in Photoshop

I posted an old picture in Facebook today – a sequence of shots of a hunting osprey. People asked how I did it, so here it is. I haven’t used the hunting osprey – it’s not one of my best efforts. So we’ll deconstruct this one of a pelican landing on a beach.

Pelican landing copy

The camera was in sports mode so it took a series of photos in quick succession. Bear in mind this is a time sequence. Some of those actions actually took place physically much closer together.

Background

I picked one of the pictures for the background to the shot. I needed lots of beach.

Layer1

Layer1 I cropped the pelican, its shadow and part of the background

Layer2

Layer 2 Once again, I cropped the pelican and its shadow. Notice this is the same bird as the one in the background. The bird in the background gets covered.

Layer3

Layer 3 The pelican was cut using Photoshop’s magic extractor. I kept the shadows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the layers were originally rectangles. After I’d placed them, in some cases I had to remove some of the beach to reveal parts of the bird in the layer underneath.  After that I used the merge and repair tools to disguise the edges of the layers. That’s why the picture in layer one has such jagged edges. Layer one is covering the bird in the background, which is why I had so much beach in it.

So there you go. I have fun doing these.

The Gathering Storm : A New Year’s introspection

5V3A1039 (1)I rarely use my blog to air my political views. But today I’m going to make an exception. It is, after all, the end of a year and the beginning of a new one – even if the endings and beginnings are artificial, human constructs. We try to force our will upon nature all the time and it’s a battle which we will ultimately lose. So, here are the things that stir me. It’s my blog. If you don’t agree with what I have to say, that is your right. Peace, be still.

The climate is changing. It always has and it always will. Nature is like that. I don’t think taxing carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere will make any difference.  The driving forces that dictate our weather are the sun, and the oceans. I think we need to accept climate change, and adapt. Because we sure as hell aren’t going to stop it.

Having said that, we should be doing more about the things we can change. Embrace alternative energy sources, introduce new technology so we don’t have to dig big holes in the ground. Clean up our oceans. Stop burning the rain forest. But I’m not sure what we can do about population growth.

We cannot continue the current notion of economic growth, and return on share holder investment, at all costs. People are being forced to work longer hours for less pay. Jobs are disappearing, especially for unskilled workers, while those at the top – the financiers and bankers who ultimately contribute nothing to the community, grow richer and richer. We should return to a more sustainable way of using our resources. If we don’t, we’ll end up with a scenario like that portrayed in the movie Elysium. (Overpopulated, polluted Earth degenerates even further, while the mega-rich live on an orbiting space station with all the comforts they could imagine.)

And from there, to religion, the great divider of our world.

I despise organised religion. Don’t misunderstand. I believe everyone has the right to believe in, and worship whatever they wish. But no-one has the right to push their beliefs onto other people. Yes, I’m an atheist. And I have never, ever, knocked on a Mormon’s door to explain that their God is a figment of their imagination. And I never will.

My objection to the main religions is simple; they’re based on beliefs and practices set down thousands of years ago, which are supposed to be the only truth. For instance, religious taboos on food probably had validity back when they were defined. But why on earth would an omnipotent being care if we choose to eat bacon, or beef, or fish? And why would an omnipotent being agree that half of humanity – the female half – is worth less than the male half? Hindu temples have signs explaining that women cannot enter if they are menstruating. Which seems odd to me. God created the plumbing, right? So how could it be wrong when it’s working as it should? Ultra-orthodox Jewish men refuse to sit next to women on aeroplanes. In mosques and synagogues men and women are usually separated, although it seems more enlightened societies allow a mix. It’s good to see the Anglican church and the Jews both now ordain women but the Catholics hold out.

Of them all, fundamental Islam stands out for its treatment of women. In Saudi Arabia (supposedly our ‘friend’) women can’t drive cars. They have to wear a black tent in case they inflame the appetites of men. They can’t own property. Etc etc. Radical Islam is even worse. Slavery is acceptable. Rape is fine – in fact, it doesn’t exist. Marriage to young children and genital mutilation are commonplace practises. Women are forbidden from receiving education. Then there’s their barbaric sharia law, which dates back to the 7th century. The woman is sentenced to punishment if she’s raped. The man gets off scot free. If you steal your hand is cut off. Flogging is carried out for apparently trivial offences. These punishments were phased out in Western cultures hundreds of years ago. We’ve all seen the reports, especially about Da’esh which is gleeful in its murderous excesses. You’re a non-believer? Or even if you belong to the wrong offshoot of Islam – off with your head. Or perhaps a crucifixion instead. In the infidel West terrorism perpetrated by young Muslim men has become all too routine.

Here in Australia we have already seen the thin edge of the wedge with companies paying for Halal certification, and it seems when Muslim marriages end in divorce the woman’s rights are not recognised by the mosque unless sharia law is invoked. No, we shouldn’t be welcoming every newcomer with open arms. Look at what is happening in Northern Europe, where thousands of fit young men have poured into previously peaceful communities. No, we shouldn’t accept women walking around in burkhas. It sends the wrong signal, that women should not be seen. Apart from anything else, it impedes communication through body language. I don’t think women should even wear the hijab. What’s wrong with female hair?

So there it is. I fear for this planet. And I fear for this country. The world we’re living in reminds me very much of pre-WWII Europe. A dictator in Russia is trying to expand his power, instead of Nazi Germany we have a ruthless bunch of fanatics flexing their power in the middle east, and all the while the West makes concessions and hopes for peace.

What’s that saying? Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Sometimes I’m glad I’m old.

Christmas in the Darling Downs

5V3A4074We usually stay home for Christmas. Prawns on the barbie, a nibble of smoked salmon, dips ‘n chips and a glass of wine or three over a game of Scrabble suit me just fine. But this year we decided to go away so somebody else could do the food preparation and the washing up. We threaten to do that most years, but we always leave it too late. Christmas lunch preparations have to start early. As it happens, we found a motel with a restaurant in Warwick at rather short notice (December). That sounded suspicious, and a phone call ascertained that the restaurant wouldn’t be open. Not to worry. It seemed the locals all went to the local Chinese on Christmas day. It was the only show in town, so the owners weren’t exactly silly. I made a booking for 12:30, we jumped in the new SUV and headed off.

Warwick is one of the larger towns in an area known as the Darling Downs. This means, obviously, that it’s much higher than the Queensland coastal fringe. (English is such an idiotic language) Because of the elevation, it’s much cooler than the coast, too – which was part of the attraction. Stanthorpe, another of the larger towns, is almost always the coldest place in Queensland. We’d been in Warwick once, many years ago, and the memory of the very cold night and the ice on the car windows lingers.

Because of the milder climate the Darling Downs is famous for its wineries, cheese and fruit. Up there they can grow apples, pears, stone fruits, berries and cherries. Everybody has cellar door sales, and restaurants or cafes. Don’t go up there for those things at Christmas time, though. On Christmas day we could have shot a cannon down Warwick’s main street and not hit anything. Boxing Day wasn’t much better.

The other thing the Darling Downs does very well is storms. Rising air from the coast mixes with the cooler air and if you add a deep depression threatening to become a cyclone hovering around up in the tropics it was a perfect cocktail for another one of those regular storms. On the way to Warwick we listened to the weather bureau warnings about a large storm around Stanthorpe. It delivered tennis ball sized hail and gale force winds. One farmer’s entire strawberry crop was completely wiped out, and trees were stripped of branches and leaves, or torn out of the ground altogether. We were told that in other spots the hail wasn’t as large, but it coated the ground like a thick blanket of snow. The farmers factor storm losses into their budgets here. The picture below was of another storm.

5V3A4053

5V3A4054There’s a tornado in there, on the horizon. I’ve done a close up for you. This happened every day. Even when the weather started off fine, by late afternoon the clouds had gathered around the hills, piling up into ominous moving mountains.

Lunch at the Chinese was fun from a people-watching point of view. They’d prepared a buffet offering fresh prawns and oysters, and a range of Chinese food like Mongolian lamb, braised seafood and (because this is Australia) sweet and sour pork. The sweets table boasted a large pavlova, fruit salad, a huge bowl of local cherries, and a large store-bought tub of vanilla ice cream.  The place was packed with families. Mum and dad and the kids, older couples with their parents – probably collected from their aged care centre – all enjoying lunch together. Although the place is licensed few people ordered much more than a mid strength beer.

On the day before Christmas we took a drive up into the hills surrounding the downs. That’s where most of the rain falls onto ancient, eroding hills. From Killarney you drive up Falls Road past a number of waterfalls within short walks of the road. The clouds hung around the tops of the hills, stretching ephemeral fingers down the slopes.

5V3A3998

Queen Mary Falls – at the top

5V3A3999

Queen Mary Falls all the way down

From the top of the pass the view across the valley is spectacular. It’s sobering to think that the forest we drove through to get to this lookout would have covered that whole valley one hundred and fifty years ago. From there, we drove down to the plain and then back up again via Cunningham Gap. This part of the trip was my favourite. I love water. Maybe that’s because I’m a Scorpio?

5V3A4012

The view from Carr’s lookout

There a number of national parks within an hour’s drive of Warwick and Stanthorpe. The one with Falls Road is Main Range.

5V3A4000

Rain forest

5V3A4006

Rainforest tree ferns

5V3A4086 5V3A4113 5V3A4107Then there’s Girraween and Sundown, which illustrate why this part of the world is known as the “granite belt”. The forest is much the same as you’d find anywhere in Australia – dry sclerophyll forest. But many of the peaks are bare rock and if you look between the trees you’ll see rounded boulders everywhere, some balanced on top of each other. Others appear to be held back from the track only by a slim eucalypt. We walked along a made track to a waterhole which you can bet would have been popular with the aboriginal people back in the day.

 

 

 

 

 

The road down to the plain

The road down to the plain

We meandered our way home to Hervey Bay via Toowoomba. Just in case you thought I was kidding about the height of this area, this is the main road to Brisbane from the Downs.

From there we skirted around the glass house mountains back home. We’ll do another visit to that area some time next year, after the school holidays.

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet

1270187Even if you find the same story written in many places. You’ll all have heard the quote from Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” It doesn’t even have to be a lie. If people believe something, they will repeat it.

I received an email yesterday from Bob Sheppard (someone I don’t know) questioning my little article about Abraham Leeman (it’s here). Popular understanding is that Leeman was a junior officer on the Vergulde Draeck (Gilt Dragon) which was wrecked on the West Australian coast in 1656. The story goes that he was in command of the ship’s longboat which made the hazardous voyage up the WA coast then across to Batavia. When he arrived, he was dispatched on the Waeckende Boey to search for the survivors. (And the cargo – the Dutch East India Company was nothing if not pragmatic.) While searching islands not far from modern day Perth, Leeman and the thirteen men with him were abandoned. He had to do that voyage up the WA coast all over again.

It’s a remarkable story. And how do we know all this? Leeman wrote a journal, which was translated and published in James Henderson’s book, Marooned. I read that book many years ago and told the story in that blog post. I saw references to this double trip all over the net. Well, it had to be true, didn’t it?

Bob Sheppard didn’t believe it.

He asked me if I had any primary evidence that Leeman was on board the Vergulde Draeck. And no, I didn’t. Neither, it seems, has anybody else. Bob pointed me at an article he’d written about Leeman which I feel pretty much proves his case. Mea culpa. I do know better. In my research for the Batavia ship wreck I read many stories about a lad being decapitated with one blow from a sword. Reading the primary source (Pelsaert’s journal) the story is clearly not true. Here’s my article about that.

So my thanks to Mr Sheppard for correcting my mistake. Oh, and by the way, that quote from Goebbels? That’s not true, either. Read all about it here.

What The Battle of 5 Armies taught me about writing

"The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Hobbit_-_The_Battle_of_the_Five_Armies.jpg#/media/File:The_Hobbit_-_The_Battle_of_the_Five_Armies.jpg

“The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies” by Source.

I’m always keen to see the extended edition of movies that take my fancy. The Hobbit trilogy is one such. And I have to say, the extra 20 minutes shown in the movie did not, in my opinion, add much. In fact, a few times I caught myself thinking, “I can see why he cut that”. So I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to come to your own conclusion in that respect.

I will, however, talk about the appendices.

I LOVE the ‘making of’ stuff. This collection of appendices is second to none. The script writers talk about what inspiration they obtained from Tolkien’s books and where (and why) they varied from the story. There are shorts about how particular characters like Thranduil and Dain were fleshed out, how the sets for Erebor, Dale, and Dol Guldur were created. And of course the way digital technology was used.

I loved the books, and I loved the movies. Part of that was that I understand and accept that the books and movies are inherently different media, and especially when you’re trying to translate a kid’s book to take its place as part of the Lord of the Rings saga. Because that’s what Peter Jackson and his people did. And that’s why it is three movies, not one. But I digress. I learnt a lot – as a writer – from watching those appendices.

1. Detail matters

In every single one of the movies’ locations the scenery, sets and props were absolutely convincing. Each race had its own culture, all exquisitely detailed. One of the best examples of that attention to detail came in the section about Dale, the city near the gates of Erebor which Smaug destroyed. Jackson’s props people built a real and beautiful town which was shown on film for at best a few minutes in the opening section of the first movie. Then they proceeded to destroy it for the scenes from the rest of the movies. Because the place was so real, we could relate to what had been lost. That’s even more important in the written word.

2. Secondary characters should be real

It was fascinating listening to the script writers talk about the characters in the kid’s book.  If you’ve read it you will recall that most of the dwarfs are not much more than two dimensional sketches, distinguished mainly by the colour of their hats. Thorin, of course, is filled out a little more. But in the Hobbit movie, every one of the dwarfs was fleshed out as an individual, each with his own eccentricities, his own costume, his own behaviour.  They, of course, are the main characters in the movies. But this attention to detail (see above) went into the secondary characters, too. Particularly fascinating was Thranduil, Legolas’s father. In the book, Thranduil isn’t named at all. He’s just the elvenking. We learn his name in Lord of the Rings, where we meet Legolas. As an aside, given that Legolas is Thranduil’s son, it would have been quite odd if he had not appeared in the Hobbit. But back to Thranduil. The script writers fleshed out his back story, made him cold, arrogant and distant. Gave him a reason to attack the Lonely Mountain and by the end of the movie, he had grown and changed. Bloody brilliant.

3. Not everything has to be explained

Thranduil is probably my most favourite character from the movies because of his complexity. And because I find men like him – handsome, distant, positively arrogant in their self-assurance – attractive. Thranduil didn’t need a crown. He was the king. End of story. But there was something else about him, something about his obsession with the white gems that were heirlooms of his people. Although we are never told at any stage what that was about, over time we are given hints, sufficient to work out our own theories on what has caused Thranduil to put up those barriers. It keeps the man interesting. And in the appendices my theory was confirmed.

4. Not everything has to work the first time

Costume designers start working on a costume before an actor is chosen. The she-elf, Tauriel, isn’t in the book, so she was a clean sheet. Richard Taylor, the chief of Weta Workshop, the company which created the props for the films, came across a designer who did some wonderful things with chain mail and thought the effect would be perfect for Tauriel. The costume was made – long, painstaking work – the actor put it on and it looked terrible. Scrub that, start again. The prosthetics used for Dain, played by Billy Connolly, were changed several times so that we could still see the man behind the makeup. Whole scenes were shot and then cut completely because they didn’t contribute to the plot. That’s like writing the first draft, or the second edit. And that’s okay. You can go back and make changes – until you publish. And all a writer has to change is a scene here, a few words there…

5. The villain has to be powerful

There are a number of villains in the Hobbit movies. One of them is Smaug, played and voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. Smaug may be a digital image, but he’s absolutely arrogant, sure of his power, clever and vindictive. Him landing on the rooftops of Lake town and advancing on Bard matched the dragon’s character. Playing with his food, so to speak. And so much better visually than in the book, where someone who is just a name shoots the beast down.

Then there’s Azog. If you’re a Tolkien tragic you will know he died at the gates of Moria, slain by none other than Dain Ironfoot. Be that as it may, the screen writers kept him alive as an adversary for Thorin and the company, and reserved Bolg for Legolas. And over the top of all this, we have the Necromancer/Sauron. All of these villains were necessary. Gandalf was faced with something greater than himself, a story which fitted into the Lord of the Rings. That’s an important lesson for writers of series. We should always remember that the Hobbit is the prequel for LOTR and what happens in that little book leads on to greater things. The enmity between dwarfs and elves  is clearly established and doesn’t waiver until they are faced with the common, hated foe. And the orcs are no push-over, assisted as they are by wargs and trolls. It’s a real battle, all the way. Each battle is personal – Thorin vs Azog, Gandalf vs Sauron, Bard vs Smaug, Legolas vs Bolg. We have an investment in the struggle, even if we know how it will end.

6. You can get away with things in film that you can’t in words

In the movie, Azog sets up a command post on Ravenhill, above the gates of Erebor, from which to direct his battle. He stands up their and uses a semaphore system to direct his commanders. Not only does that show the audience that the orcs are more than mindless fighters, it gives the script writers the opportunity to set up a confrontation between Thorin and Azog. It works exceedingly well and we’re so caught up in the battle of five armies (which Tolkien covered a couple of sentences in his book) that we don’t even think about the elephant in the room. How did Azog and his boys get up there and set up a semaphore system without anybody noticing? The other issue, how did Thorin, Fili and Kili – and Bilbo, get up there with an army of orcs in the way, is addressed, especially in the extra footage. I confess I hadn’t thought about how the command post was set up. The battle scenes are so fast-paced and so absorbing I didn’t notice. But if you’re going to pull something like that in a book, you’d better have thought it through.

7. Consider your audience

I’m adding this for the one thing that I believe was not a success. Sorry, but a love story between a dwarf and an elf – especially one that happen so quickly – doesn’t work for me. I have no objection to adding Tauriel to the cast. She was great as a fighter, and as an elf with a different view of the world from Thranduil and his son. I can kinda see what the writers were trying to do and in the appendices reference is made back to Gimli and Galadriel, but that wasn’t a love story. Not to me, anyway, and I know I’m not alone. Millions of people have read and loved the Hobbit and LOTR. They have their own ideas about how the races interacted. Tolkien himself described several instances of marriages between men and elves, but never dwarfs – and any other race, really. So that’s about reader expectation. Some things perhaps you can’t, or shouldn’t, do.

Anything you’d like to add? Please share your wisdom.

Poster Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Hobbit_-_The_Battle_of_the_Five_Armies.jpg#/media/File:The_Hobbit_-_The_Battle_of_the_Five_Armies.jpg

 

Introducing Michaela Kendrick’s “Dragon’s Honor”

DragonsHonorFinal2When I first spoke with Greta about my new release, she was intrigued by my mention of the Dragon Riders of Pern series, and she wondered how it had influenced my writing—including my current series.

This turned out to be a more difficult question than I anticipated. The Pern series will always have a special place in my heart—I still remember finding it as I pored over the shelves of books in our house. From the start, I was captivated by Lessa as the slave who could not be intimidated or broken. Fiery and commanding, she made her own destiny. I’ve always wanted to write a character who held the same strength it took to face down the dragon and bond with it, and to endure all of the trials that followed.

On the face of it, the Dragon Corps series and the Dragon Riders of Pern have little in common. One is militaristic SciFi with space marines, and the other melds fantasy elements into a story that is much more a fantasy epic than a space opera (however it may be classified). But McCaffrey is still an inspiration. One does not need to match her story structure or her genre in order to write the same sort of story: one of passion and pride, both as positives and negatives. Her villains were real, absolutely visceral. Her heroes were just as full, with the fiery natures we could empathize with even as the characters walked down the proverbial dark alleyway.

That is what I have always tried to capture in my writing. McCaffrey wrote in a fantastical world that was realistic because the characters were so relatable, both in their good and bad moments. When readers see Aryn, I want them to know how fully she is outmatched and yet cheer her on even while she walks knowingly into danger for love’s sake. When Cade’s pride leads him into yet another beating, I want the reader to flinch at the blows and yet know why he can’t bring himself to betray the woman he loves or the morals he holds so dear.

I think we read, on some level, because we want to believe that if such terrible things happen to us, we could also stand up and do the right thing. When I write, I don’t want just to show characters who rise above their circumstances, as Lessa did at the start of the book in Dragonflight, I want characters who also inspire us to be better people now, as Lessa inspired me when I was younger. I want characters like Cade and Talon, who show me the responsibility that comes with their training. I want characters like Aryn and Samara, who fight for what’s right even though they might not be the best ones to do it. I want characters like Tera, who have to confront brutal truths about people that they love. Because all of these are things we need to do in our lives, and if I can inspire even one person like Anne McCaffrey inspired me, I will be very happy, indeed.

Want to know more about Cade, Aryn, and the rest? Email Michaela at mkendrickauthor@gmail.com for a FREE review copy of Dragon’s Honor!

Dragon’s Honor

The Warlord…

From high society banquets in the ice covered skyscrapers of New Arizona, to the most far-flung outposts at the edge of human-occupied space, everyone has heard of Ymir. The Alliance’s reach is wide, and its soldiers are well trained, but there are always despots powerful enough to assert themselves, and Ymir has been one of the most notable failures of human history: a whole planet given over to a man known only as the Warlord.

The soldier…

Cade Williams was once a Dragon—the most elite fighting unit in known space. Precise, brutal, and unstoppable, they were a last resort in the lawless wastes of space colonization. But there was a price: in one horrific mission, Cade’s unit took down not only a slave trader, but an entire intergalactic carrier. Cade left and never looked back. Haunted by his past, he’s vowed never again to kill, never again to fight, and, filling jobs from dock worker to bartender, he’s managed to keep that vow. But Cade’s life is about to be turned upside down. Because when at last he runs out of options, his old friend Talon Rift appears out of nowhere. Talon, the man who ordered him to take down the carrier. Talon, who wants him to get back in the game. And when Cade won’t, Talon has a job opportunity he seems to know Cade can’t afford to pass up. Protect a woman. An innocent. Remarkably little chance of anything going wrong. And a man needs to eat.

And the trophy wife…

There are two problems: first, that Cade hates Aryn the moment he lays eyes on her; second, that he wants her like he’s never wanted anyone before in his life. Or make that three problems: Aryn’s fiancé is a weapons trafficker with a well-deserved reputation for being ruthless, and Aryn is about to get caught up in one of his schemes – one that will bring her back to the place she only just escaped…the mines of Ymir.

Where to buy:

Dragon’s Honor will be free to read in Kindle Unlimited: smile.amazon.com/dp/B017F8X7HC/

Where to find me:

Right now, I’m only on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mkendrickauthor/

Mailing list: http://eepurl.com/bIDsBn

And people can feel free to email me at mkendrickauthor@gmail.com

Excerpt:

“Cade Williams?”

The words came through the haze of smoke and drunkenness like a hallucination. Cade knew that voice. He was never, ever going to be able to forget that voice, and it had to be a hallucination because there was no way in hell the owner of that voice had chased him across three systems only to walk into a dive bar on the lower streets of New Arizona. So he went back to his drink.

He picked up the glass and stared at it. It was a scotch he’d been nursing for about three hours now, and not just because “scotch” seemed to be a loose term for colored grain alcohol. When he finished his drink, he had nowhere to go. And in the ever-drifting snow of New Arizona—he’d never figured out if the name was born of ignorance or irony—he needed to stay indoors as long as possible. The cold was fierce, and whatever acid was in the water on this planet, it would burn his skin raw in less than a night.

And if he didn’t get ten thousand credits to Osiris within a week, he was a dead man. But one thing at a time. Cade shook his head and let the moment slide away from him, a tiny drift into memory and nothing more.

“Williams,” the voice said again.

That was definitely not a hallucination. Cade’s eyes traveled along the arm that had come down on one side of him. Callused fingertips, last joint of the right index finger missing, the hint of a tattoo poking out from under a blue cuff. The arm underneath the suit jacket was well muscled, leading to broad shoulders and a clean-shaven jaw, and with a sinking feeling of dread, Cade looked up at one of his worst nightmares.

“Lieutenant Rift.”

“Actually, it’s Major now.” Talon’s face was expressionless, as it almost always was. He watched as Cade’s eyes traveled over the understated suit, across the planes of the handsome face. At last, sensing the question Cade would never ask, he flipped over the hand on his resting arm. There, glimmering in the faint light, were blood-red cufflinks.

A Dragon always wore red.

Talon absorbed Cade’s bitter smile in silence.

“You look surprisingly well.” Cade looked down into his scotch and considered drinking the rest in one gulp. The pours in this bar were generous, and with the alcohol being of dubious provenance, a gulp might well kill him. Right now, that wasn’t seeming so bad. It was all coming back to him—without warning, as it always did. He’d known the moment he heard the voice that this was going to be a bad night, even worse than he’d thought—and he’d already thought it would be pretty bad. There was screaming at the corner of his mind, the flashing of the lights in the bar taking on a reddish hue, the emergency exit sign too clear a reminder.

He closed his eyes, clenching his jaw until he thought his teeth would give way. He had to keep breathing, or the memories would take him, and the world would devolve into the chaotic mess he so feared, every face reminding him of the pods, the children pounding on the glass—

He was going to be sick. His stomach heaved.

“Should I go?”

“No.” Cade’s answer surprised even him. He opened his eyes and looked down into his drink again. He could force the world back into its neat shapes if he tried hard enough. In the vacuum of space, in the long silences of a courier’s job, he’d learned to face his fear and press it away.

He could face this, too.

“Okay.” Talon sat, pulled reflexively at both cuffs, and looked over at the bartender. “What won’t kill me here?”

“Don’t try the scotch.”

“Noted.”

Michaela Kendrick Author Photo 2Bio:

Raised on the Dragon Riders of Pern, Star Wars, Star Trek, and a whole bunch of historical romances, Michaela grew up adoring the adventure of Science Fiction and the passion of a good love story. Filled with double crossing, grand romantic gestures, sarcasm, and plenty of heat, Michaela’s books are just the sort of thing she wants to read herself!

Please welcome Lea Kirk and her new novel “Prophecy”

ProphecyHello all! My name is Lea Kirk, and I am crazy-thrilled that Greta has asked me to be a guest on her blog today.

My debut book, Prophecy, is a near future sci-fi romance involving alien invaders, soul mates, and, of course, an ancient prophecy. It will be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world on January 12, 2016. Today I’m going to share with you ten things about Prophecy that next to no one knows.

  1. I began writing Prophecy in high school in the early 1980’s. I picked it up again three years ago after a fever induced dream.
  2. My hero, Gryf, was inspired by a blue-skinned, white-haired, Japanese cartoon character I watched as a kid. I can’t even remember that character’s name, or the name of the cartoon, but I think he may have been the villain.
  3. In the updated version of the story, the invaders are green-skinned aliens whose average height is 10.5 feet. In the original story, they were fifty-feet tall!
  4. My heroine’s name was originally Alexis, and she was way too chipper, even for me. She’s a lot more grounded now, and has been renamed Alexandra.
  5. I cannot find any of my spiral notebooks containing the original, handwritten manuscript. (sad face)
  6. Thirty years ago, the story was only going to be one book. Two and a half years ago, the heroine’s brother, Nick, wanted his own story told. And that’s how the Prophecy Series got started.
  7. In the original story, Nick’s name was Jason.
  8. The Prophecy Series will definitely be at least three books, and potentially as many as five books. All can be read as stand-alone books, but I recommend reading Prophecy first as an introduction to this world.
  9. There are also a variety of short stories and novelettes waiting in the wings.
  10. I suspect my husband is secretly jealous of Gryf because he intentionally mispronounces the character’s name. (Grife, Grief, etc.)

It was a pleasure being here today and sharing some little known facts about Prophecy. I hope you enjoy reading Alexandra and Gryf’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it. I welcome you to visit my website, Facebook, and/or Twitter.

Thank you for having me, Greta!

About Prophecy

A woman who’s lost everything, a man betrayed by his own, but together their destiny is greater than ever imagined.

One normal day turns into a nightmare when Earth is attacked. Now ER nurse Alexandra Bock is imprisoned aboard an alien slave ship with no way out. She deems all aliens untrustworthy, including the handsome blue-skinned Matiran captain who shares her cell.

One night of betrayal leaves Senior Captain Gryf Helyg a prisoner of his enemies. Because of him, Earth’s indigenous people face extinction and his home world is threatened. But his plans for escape are complicated by his inexplicable draw to the Earth woman imprisoned with him.

One ancient prophecy holds the key to free Alexandra and Gryf’s war-ravaged worlds. Can two wounded souls who have lost everything learn to trust and forgive in order to fulfill the prophecy, and find a love that will last for eternity?

Available for special pre-order price on Amazon:

Release day: January 12, 2016 on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes

Prophecy has placed in the following contests: The Molly, On the Far Side, Dixie Kane, Pages from the Heart, and The Rebecca.

About Lea Kirk

Lea KirkLea Kirk loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her romances of science fiction and time travel. Her fascination with science fiction began at six years old when her dad introduced her to the original Star Trek TV series. She fell in love with the show, and was even known to run through her parents’ house wearing the tunic top of her red knit pantsuit and her white go-go boots pretending to be Lieutenant Uhura. By nine years old she knew she wanted to be a writer, and in her teens she read her first romance and was hooked.

She lives in Northern California with her wonderful hubby of twenty-five years and their five kids (aka, the nerd herd). She’s also proud of her seven times great grandson. Apparently her stories will serve as the inspiration for James T. to join Star Fleet Academy. She learned this in the 1980’s when James sought out her counsel on where to find a pair of humpback whales.

Where to find out more about Lea Kirk

www.leakirk.com
https://twitter.com/LeaKirkWrites
https://www.facebook.com/LeaKirkAuthor

Two more days in Amsterdam

IMG_2240IMG_2253After the Budapest – Amsterdam cruise finished, we stayed in Amsterdam for two more nights before the long trek back to Australia. Amsterdam is a beautiful city. Those canals really raise it above more of the same, with reflections and views and history around every corner. It’s not an old city, though. Not like Budapest and Koln and Bratsilava with their links to Roman times. And its real Golden Age was the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company ruled the waves, Dutch painting was at its height and Dutch inventors like Christian Huygens had the freedom to practice science.

We stayed at a hotel near the fashionable Vondel Park, where I managed to take a few nice pictures of the grand houses. The hotel probably used to be a grand house once. As a hotel it left a lot to be desired. But that’s another story.

This visit I wanted to go back to the street I was born in, just to see if I had even a glimmer of recognition. Nope. But then, as I’ve said before, you can’t really go back.

We also visited the WWII Resistance Museum, which is just over the road from Artis, Amsterdam’s zoo. My parents lived through the war years in Amsterdam. My oldest brother was born in 1940, just a couple of months after the occupation started. He was the youngest of five children, and the only boy. The oldest was seven.

To call the place the “resistance” museum was in a way, something of a misnomer. Not everybody CAN resist. But that point is made in a short introductory film about how Holland was occupied, and the progression of Nazi occupation from a benevolent stance, where they hoped to win the Dutch to their cause, gradually becoming more and more oppressive after the strikes in the tram service, leading on to the ‘honger winter’ in 1944/5. (you can watch the film in that link to the museum) The choices for ordinary citizens in Holland were collaborate, live with it, or resist. The museum gives examples of each, illustrated in articles, photos and personal objects. Much of the exhibition is about the murder of the Jews. I don’t think the Dutch people will ever get over the massacre of the Jews. It seems to be ingrained in their consciousness. And that part of Eastern Amsterdam where my family lived was one of the Jewish ghettoes.

A great deal has been made ever since the war about the French resistance. People in other occupied countries did every bit as much as the French. It’s just not as well known. I believe I had an uncle who was in the resistance. I think he ended up in a camp in Germany and returned after the war stick-thin. And I recall stories of people jumping off trains taking them to labour camps in Germany. This museum is for Dutch people more than overseas visitors. I felt it addressed a feeling of guilt, why didn’t we do more? And the fact of life is, in many cases the choices were impossible.

My sisters were still children at the end of the war – the oldest was twelve. I was born 5 years later, and my sisters taught me all the rude songs they used to sing about the Germans. What little I know about those years I heard from my sisters. My mother and father never talked about it.

But on a more fun note – Pete and I learned how to use the tram system, moving from one line to another to get around. It was lots of fun, rather like tube hopping in London, except it’s above ground. A day pass is 7.50 Euros. The trams can take you to all of the major attractions in the city and you get to have a look at the suburbs, too. I recommend it to anyone visiting Amsterdam.

To round off the day we visited with a cousin in South Amsterdam and went to a marvellous Indian restaurant for dinner. And then, with news of the bombings in Paris reverberating through Europe, the next morning we went home to an Australian summer.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: