Guest Post: Voyager, Stargate, and Patchwork Storytelling

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gingellVisiting the blog today is author W. R. Gingell, writer of speculative fiction, here to talk about Sci-Fi and the stories that led her to not just loving the genre, but creating universes of her own. Take it away!

 

I’ve never been a huge Sci-Fi reader. As I grew up, I read quite a lot of Sci-Fi—the difference between reading Sci-Fi and being a Sci-Fi reader being the fact that I didn’t seek out Sci-Fi particularly. It was usually by accident, when I found a story or characters that fascinated me. If the story and characters were good, I read it regardless of genre. I ended up reading a lot of Nicholas Fisk, C.S. Lewis’ Cosmic trilogy, and a fair bit of John Christopher, along with a smattering of random scifi titles.

It was probably for this reason that I was so late to the game when it came to scifi T.V. shows like Startrek, Stargate, and Starwars. My mum loved fantasy, my dad didn’t really watch fictional T.V. at all, and scifi T.V. was just never on in the house. In fact, I discovered Voyager after I got married, some time in my early 20s.

And I LOVED it.

I loved the episodic nature of it, while at the same time appreciating the over-arching story of trying-to-get-home (and seriously, is there anyone who didn’t love Q? Oh. I’m the only one who loved him? Okay.). I loved Captain Janeway, a character who was so busy being herself and doing awesome stuff that it never occurred to her to try and be a Strong Female Character. Because she was a person. A captain. And I loved the odd episode where you weren’t quite sure what was happening and what was up, but you followed it because you knew the character and you were interested in seeing where the writers took it.

So when I got the idea for extending my short story, A Time Traveller’s Best Friend, into a series, the idea of writing it like a T.V. series instead of a traditional scifi series was the only way it occurred to me to do the thing.  Originally, A Time Traveller’s Best Friend started as a short story written for my local writing group; a single story from a single idea that sprouted from a series of writing prompt challenge words. But I loved Kez and Marx so much that I didn’t want to stop writing about them, and I knew lengthening the short story wasn’t an option for me. I liked it in its compact, cellular form. The logical option was to turn it into a T.V. series. In a book.

In my Time Traveller’s Best Friend series, I’ve combined all my favourite things about Sci-Fi into bookform, making a patchwork of Sci-Fi and time travel that is about as battered as The Upsydaisy, Marx and Kez’s stolen er, secondhand craft. Each volume of the series is a set of interlinking, but distinct, adventures—something like a season would be on T.V.—each with its own story arc that feeds into the main arc of the whole series. And because of the nature of time travel, I left myself free to play with the structure as far as chronology goes. I mean, if your characters are travelling in time and space, some things are going to happen in a different order to what an outside watcher perceives…

Since the 2nd book is now up for preorder (September 26th), I’m running a 99c special on A Time Traveller’s Best Friend, which means you can check it out for a steal (Kez would certainly approve). The first volume of the series is on the shorter side, but Memento Mori more than makes up for that, weighing in at over twice the length of A Time Traveller’s Best Friend. Come aboard the Upsydaisy for adventures in time and space, but beware—Here be monsters…

Thanks for stopping by!

Check out Gingell’s time-travel series and its upcoming sequel! The first book (below) is only $0.99!

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Meet Marx. Meet Kez.

Marx is a small, angry man with a time machine and a chip on his shoulder. Kez is a homicidal little girl with a price on her head and a penchant for kicking people where it hurts the most.

After a narrow escape from the owners of the stolen craft he pilots, the last thing Marx wants is another gun pointed at him. What he wants and what he gets, however, are two very different things.

On the run from killers, shadowy corporations, and one very specific Someone, the last thing Kez wants when she points a gun at yet another apparent killer is a self-appointed protector.

What she wants and what she needs, however, are two very different things…

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The sequel is available for pre-order now!

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Even time travellers can run out of time.

Marx and Kez have been skipping through the known Twelve Worlds, keeping one step ahead of certain capture by the seat of their trousers, and the vastness of time and space is feeling a tad too small.

Kez has always been a bit crazy, but now it’s Marx who is getting mad. Someone is trying to kill them, and that’s the sort of thing he takes personally.

To add to their difficulties, there are Fixed Points in time that are beginning to look a little less…fixed.

Between Time Corp, WAOF, Uncle Cheng, and the Lolly Men, it’s beginning to look like there’s nowhere safe in the known Twelve Worlds for Kez and Marx.

Release Date: September 26th!

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About the Author

W.R. Gingell is a Tasmanian author who lives in a house with a green door. She loves to rewrite fairytales with a twist or two–and a murder or three–and original fantasy where dragons, enchantresses, and other magical creatures abound. Occasionally she will also dip her toes into the waters of SciFi.

W.R. spends her time reading, drinking an inordinate amount of tea, and slouching in front of the fire to write. Like Peter Pan, she never really grew up, and is still occasionally to be found climbing trees.

Connect with her via:

Website/Blog: http://wrgingell.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WRGingell

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7849833.W_R_Gingell

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Guest Post: Realms of Culture

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jeffeSuper excited to have award-winning author Jeffe Kennedy as a guest on the blog today! As a huge fan of her work (Read my review of her new release, The Shift of the Tide), I am always so impressed by the cultures in her novels. Seriously, I have found myself talking about some of the intricate and fascinating aspects only to realize the level of detail I went into made it sound like an actual culture that existed somewhere. So, I asked if Jeffe might tell us a bit about her writing approach regarding the different cultures in her Fantasy worlds and what she does to make them seem so real.

I often get asked about how I construct the cultures in my fantasy worlds. Well, more broadly, readers and other writers ask about my worldbuilding process. Anela here specifically asked about the cultures. She mentioned the Nahanaun culture from The Pages of the Mind (Anela says: This one just won a RITA award, woooo!!), in particular, and the Faerie society in my Covenant of Thorns trilogy. She also asked about the cultures as they’re experienced by my characters as outsiders to them.

That last question is actually quite pertinent. It’s a common trope in fantasy to have a character who is what we call “a fish out of water.” This acts on a couple of levels. The character who is plunged into an unfamiliar world with a new set of rules has to find new abilities in themselves, to learn to overcome the challenges of those circumstances. If a person remains in familiar surroundings, there’s no impetus for them to change. Taken out of their pond, they have to learn to breathe air in order to survive. Also, a fish out of water character serves as an avatar for the reader—they allow the reader to learn the world along with them.

As for the rest, I often reply that I learn the world as the characters do, by riding around in their heads as the story unfolds. That’s true, but it’s also an oversimplification. I might observe the world through their perceptions—which includes their own ideas and cultural preconceptions—but I try to base aspects of the world on real life principles.

  1. Physical Laws.

It’s important to determine if the world follows the same physical laws as ours. Some aspects, like gravity and molecular cohesion are hard to get away from and still have a comprehensible story. In the world of The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms (the world of The Pages of the Mind), most of the standard physical laws apply, with the addition of magic. In the Faerie of Covenant of Thorns, I twisted up some of those laws. The presence of magic changes how the natural world works, particularly the rate of mutation and evolution.

  1. Ecology

I’m a biologist by training, so I’ve studied a lot about how ecology—climate, temperature, geological features like oceans or mountains—influences the flora, fauna and human civilizations there. For example, in our world, animals tend to be larger the farther north they live. So Wyoming bobcats are much bigger than New Mexico bobcats. When I built the world of Nahanau, I knew the islands would be formed from volcanic activity and be in a tropical climate. The types of plant life and animals there would be informed by all of that. Because volcanic islands have barrier reefs (a consequence of how they’re formed), I knew there would be sea life associated with barrier reefs, and so forth.

  1. People and politics

The humans who live in a particular environment are as much a product of it as the plants and animals. The Nahanauns live in a consistently warm environment, so their dress and building construction reflects that. On top of that, because of the openness of their society, I figured they’d have more flexible ideas about personal property. In Faerie, humans have no magic and thus no power. They’re lower class citizens and their towns reflect that. In that society, the types of fae who have the most magic—and are most willing to wield it—rise to the highest levels. But that kind of society leads to near-constant battling, as well.

  1. Language

Deciding on a culture’s language can be a twisty proposition. Because a book is an exercise of language to begin with, the language the story is written in dictates a great deal. I usually make the “home” language of the main characters be pretty close to modern American English, for simplicity’s sake. Some readers don’t like this because they feel the language of epic and high fantasy should be like in Tolkien. But Tolkein wrote in the early 1900s—the language he used was different than modern American English. I don’t think it’s any more “accurate” to use British English of the early 1900s for fantasy that American English of the early 2000s.

When I go to create a language foreign to the main characters, I usually base it off another language in our world, so there’s a sense of familiarity that also evokes place. For Nahanau, I used Hawaiian words and put a slightly different spin on them. I did this for names, as well. For Faerie, I used Gaelic as a base.

Finally, because I wanted Nahanaun to be a perplexing language for the heroine, Dafne, I complicated their verb tenses. I added words to indicate past and future, like oriental languages such as Chinese do. I also had those tenses colored with good or bad fortune, partly to illustrate the culture, and to make things more interesting.

  1. Mythology

Finally, I always try to be sure to include the spiritual outlook of the human culture. How people view the intangible world is as important as the effects of the tangible one.

Many thanks for being a guest on the blog, Jeffe!

Check out her newest release in The Uncharted Realms series, The Shift of the Tide

shift_ebook-200x300Free from the hand of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. New allies appear–and enemies encroach–from all sides. To survive, they must adapt to this new reality without a moment of doubt…

Growing up in a country where magic was common as dust, Zynda never had to worry about her enchantments upsetting the balance of nature. But the land beyond the borders of the thirteenth kingdom calls to her. It may be foreign and ugly, but the strangeness is laced with an excitement she has never known. Outside her homeland, Zynda’s shapeshifting and sorcery are a potent advantage to nations grasping for dominance–and the thrill of power lures her even as she recognizes the threat she poses to these magic-buffeted realms.

A ruthless enemy stalks them, promising destruction if she does not fight with all her strength–but if she upsets the equilibrium of the land, all will pay, the common people most of all. And a man of this outside world fascinates her, a mossback with no scrap of magic in him. He knows nothing of the fears and temptations pulling at her. But in his steady embrace she learns she must choose well–for the consequences may reach farther than she ever imagined…

 About Jeffe Kennedy

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award.

Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms. Book one in that series, The Pages of the Mind, has also been nominated for the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and won RWA’s 2017 RITA® Award. The second book, The Edge of the Blade, released December 27, 2016, and is a PRISM finalist, along with The Pages of the Mind. The next in the series, The Shift of the Tide, will be out in August, 2017. A high fantasy trilogy taking place in The Twelve Kingdoms world is forthcoming from Rebel Base books in 2018.

She also introduced a new fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, which includes Lonen’s War, Oria’s Gambit, The Tides of Bàra, and The Forests of Dru. She’s begun releasing a new contemporary erotic romance series, Missed Connections, which started with Last Dance and continues in With a Prince.

In 2019, St. Martins Press will release the first book, The Orchid Throne, in a new fantasy romance series, The Forgotten Empires.

Her other works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

 

The Shift of the Tide (The Uncharted Realms)

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Title & Author: The Shift of the Tide (The Uncharted Realms), Jeffe Kennedy

Genre & Publication Date: Fantasy Romance, August 29, 2017

Book Description: “Free from the hand of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. New allies appear–and enemies encroach–from all sides. To survive, they must adapt to this new reality without a moment of doubt…

Growing up in a country where magic was common as dust, Zynda never had to worry about her enchantments upsetting the balance of nature. But the land beyond the borders of the thirteenth kingdom calls to her. It may be foreign and ugly, but the strangeness is laced with an excitement she has never known. Outside her homeland, Zynda’s shapeshifting and sorcery are a potent advantage to nations grasping for dominance–and the thrill of power lures her even as she recognizes the threat she poses to these magic-buffeted realms.

A ruthless enemy stalks them, promising destruction if she does not fight with all her strength–but if she upsets the equilibrium of the land, all will pay, the common people most of all. And a man of this outside world fascinates her, a mossback with no scrap of magic in him. He knows nothing of the fears and temptations pulling at her. But in his steady embrace she learns she must choose well–for the consequences may reach farther than she ever imagined…”

First Line: Water streamed over my skin in a rush, responsive as it enveloped me, like music following my dance.

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

The Shift of the Tide is the third installment of The Uncharted Realms series, an award winning spin-off from the original Twelve Kingdoms books (Which everyone should read! Start with “The Mark of the Tala” and let me know when you come up for air.)

This story centers around Zynda, a woman from the lands of magic, Anfwyn, who is the strongest shifter of her generation. If you’ve been following this series then you know how we’ve all been dying to find out more about this insular people and culture who rarely, if ever, share their secrets with the outside world (the one without magic). In this book, at last, we get to find out so much about their culture and their ways through the lens of Zynda’s perspective, as well as the epidemic the Tala are facing. Zynda’s self-appointed mission to save her people is one she plays close to the chest, not even telling her friends and allies, knowing the sacrifice it will require is one they wouldn’t let her pay willingly. But this is something she’s worked toward for a long time. There’s nothing else she desires for herself than this–until a near-death experience reveals the devotion of a man she never really noticed before.

Fiercely independent, I really liked Zynda. So closed off in at certain points, I sometimes felt bad for poor Marskal and the way she kept holding him at arm’s length, yet I understood she did this because of her plans, wanting to spare them both from hoping for something that couldn’t be. Lots of tension and agony with these two, but also a mutual admiration and deepening loyalty through their adventures together. You can’t help but hold on to that hope with both hands.

The Magical: Draaaaagons, y’all! Fire, scales, and wings! Loved it! I also seriously enjoyed the way Kennedy wrote the experience of shifting into an animal form, the struggle to hold on to one’s human side while physically inhabiting another skin. Excellently done.

The Mundane: There’s a big enemy the kingdoms are contending with that is using magic to raise dead things–human and animal alike. I know there’s more coming on this front but I wished there’d have been some additional battle/action. I’m betting that’s coming in the next installment but I did feel its absence in this one.

Summary of Thoughts: Currently this book is $6.99 on Amazon. An awesome story, full of self-sacrifice and self-realization. Zynda’s voice carried the book well and her relationship with Marskal took time and felt all the sweeter because of it. I loved Marskal, a warrior without the annoying, flip-her-over-his-shoulder, overbearing trope that makes me want to kill something. Not a push-over either and able to take a few things on the chin. This book is a wonderful addition to the ongoing series and I definitely recommend it!

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Many thanks to author Jeffe Kennedy for the chance to review your work!

Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here

Want to know more about this author and her work? Explore her website here

A Single Candle

Things have been pretty ghoulish around the country of late. It’s a surreal thing to see all those torch wielders in Virginia spewing hate, waving the Nazi flag, and making the “Sieg Heil” when probably all of their grandfathers fought against the Nazis in WWII. In some ways I’m glad the old timers aren’t around to see their descendants invoke the name of the world’s once greatest enemy in their protests. (Somebody point them to a copy of “The Man in the High Castle” if they want to see of version of what might have been). I’m positive my own grandpa is pretty pissed off right about now. My husband, who most of you know is from Holland and whose country was occupied by the Germans for five years in WWII, said Americans have no conception of how truly evil the Nazis were.

I’ve been thinking about the nature of hate, the kind that makes someone drive a car into a group of people and call it patriotism. You might wonder what’s the use in trying to understand something that is incomprehensible, but this is what my thoughts came back with:

Hate is another form of despair. It’s the externalization of powerlessness, of unfulfilled need. The trouble is that it has an almost addictive quality. It feels empowering. It gives this sense of vindication, of purpose, when in fact it only takes power away. It makes one more susceptible to another’s control, to be radicalized towards another’s agenda. So I find myself angry all over again that there is such deep despair in this country that it outs itself in the form of hatred and blame and bloodshed. Yet, as much as I strive to understand, I believe with absolute conviction the God-awful things they cried out and the symbols they bandied about during their protests cannot be tolerated and should not (and as a writer, I don’t say this lightly) be protected under the right of free speech. Here’s why:

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

Karl Popper, Jewish philosopher who fled Prussia from Nazis in the 1930s

But it’s not enough to condemn what was said. We have to speak up in return. We have to ask ourselves what can we do.

Recently I came across a message to bloggers from @aartichapati:

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Taking a look through my reviews so far this year, I feel I’m falling way short of the mark when it comes to reading diversely. I plan to do better because she’s right. Learning new perspectives and approaches has always served to elevate my life and my view of the world, usually in ways I never anticipated beforehand.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading and reviewing the authors I love or skip over a story that grabs my interest if it’s written by a white person or has white characters. This is about addition, not subtraction. This is about responding to an ideology that wants to silence and oppress, and fighting against it every way I can. We need more voices, not fewer. I won’t say to love your neighbor no matter what–hell, my neighbors’ kids like to ring my friggin’ doorbell every night and run away (and here I thought that prank had died out)–but wish him no harm and search for ways to understand each other.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness,” Anne Frank said. For myself, and this small space on the internet, I plan to do just that by seeking out new authors and stories. I hope you’ll join me.

Local Skies: Researching the Milky Way

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There have been some pretty awesome things happening as far as the final frontier that I feel a post is in order. Despite being an enormous Sci-Fi fan, absolutely nothing beats the real thing.

I’m sure most have heard about this by now but I still have to call it out…NASA discovered seven Earth sized planets orbiting a star only 40 light-years away.

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Three of these planets are in the habitable zone of this ultra-cool dwarf star. They might even have oceans. The fifth planet closest to the sun, known as TRAPPIST 1-f (seriously needs a new name) is the one they think most likely to support life. LIFE, you guys. The implications are huge, and while forty light-years is still a great distance, in terms of space, it’s right next door.

In our own neighborhood, Jupiter has been in the news. In 2011 NASA sent out a probe to Jupiter in hopes of studying the biggest planet in town. It arrived on July 5, 2016 and entered orbit in its pole. I’m trying to contemplate a piece of machinery hurtling through the vacuum of space for five years and arriving in working order. Now that’s some really good workmanship. I’ve got electronics in my house that didn’t last that long.

Now in its fifth orbit, Juno got a closeup look on July 5th of the Giant Red Spot on Jupiter’s surface, its best known feature and something scientists have observed and wondered about for hundreds of years. The thing is massive–1.3 times as wide as the Earth–and the storm itself is theorized to have been going for more than 350 years. And here I thought that week of rain took forever to blow past.

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If you want to see more pics from the Juno cam and learn about the mission, click here

It really is a wonder so many Sci-Fi stories and movies take place in distant galaxies with planets and moons that don’t, uh, actually exist. From a fiction standpoint, it’s a lot of fun but I do ponder why our own little corner of the universe isn’t shown more love. And there’s a lot to love–literally. The Milky Way is over 100,000 light-years across with a monstrous black hole at the center.

While working on my Sci-Fi series Insurrection I decided early on that I wanted to shop local, choosing plot locations from Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, to a pod-station orbiting Venus, to Vesta (a designated minor-planet located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter), and more. As I’ve done my research on the goodies in our galaxy, I’ve come across some pretty amazing things that make me wonder why Sci-Fi bothers heading out of town for its settings when there’s so much awesome right here.

For your Friday enjoyment, here are a few things I came across you might not have known existed in ye olde galactic homestead: (Excerpts taken online from Space.com and Astrobiology Magazine):

Particle Geysers

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“The center of the Milky Way is the location of an enormous amount of activity—stars are dying and bursting to life in a constant cycle. And recently, we’ve seen something else coming out of the galactic hub—a stream of high-energy particles that stretches over 15,000 parsecs across the galaxy. That’s more than half of the entire width of the Milky Way. They’re invisible to the naked eye, but with magnetic imagery, the particle geysers can be seen across almost two-third of our sky.

What’s causing the phenomenon? One hundred million years of star formation and decay, fueling a never-ending jet creeping towards the galaxy’s outer arms. The total energy in the geyser is over a million times that of a supernova and the particles are traveling at supersonic speeds. And it’s not random—based on the structure of the particle jets, astronomers are building a model of the magnetic field that governs the entire galaxy.”

Cannibal Galaxy

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“No matter how often a star is born, there’s no way for the Milky Way to grow if it doesn’t pull in new matter from another place. And the Milky Way is definitely growing. Though we previously weren’t sure exactly how that growth was happening, recent findings suggest that the Milky Way is a cannibal—it has consumed other galaxies in the past and will probably continue to do so, at least until a larger galaxy comes along and pulls us into it.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope and information from about seven years of photos, researchers found stars along the outer rim of the Milky Way that were moving tangentially. Instead of moving either toward or away from the Milky Way’s core, like every other star, they just sort of drifted along sideways. The star cluster is believed to be a remnant of another galaxy that was absorbed by the Milky Way—crumbs left over from its last big meal.

That collision likely occurred billions of years ago, and it won’t be the last one to happen. At the rate we’re moving, we’ll likely eat the Andromeda galaxy in around 4.5 billion years. Too bad none of us will be around to see it.”

The 250 Million Year Orbit

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“On Earth, a year is determined by the length of time it takes the planet to orbit the Sun. Every 365 days, we’re right back where we started, generally speaking. It makes sense then that our entire solar system is similarly orbiting the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It just takes a little longer, to the tune of 250 million years for each rotation. In other words, we’ve made about a quarter of a single orbit since the dinosaurs died.

Descriptions of the solar system rarely mention that it’s spinning through space just like everything else. We’re actually traveling at about 792,000 km (483,000 mi) per hour relative to the center of the Milky Way. To put that into a more easily relatable example, that speed would take you around the Earth in just over three minutes. Each time the Sun makes it all the way around the Milky Way, it’s known as the galactic year, or cosmic year. It’s estimated that there have been only 18 galactic years in the history of the Sun.”

Not bad for a place whose name will always make me think of a delicious candy bar. FYI, NASA also got some brand new astronaut recruits this year who will most likely be the ones to go on the first mission to Mars. Discovery continues, friends, even in times like these.

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Escape Velocity (Syzygy Book 4)

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Title & Author: Escape Velocity (Syzygy Book 4), J. K. Ullrich

If you’re just learning about this series, I recommend starting with my review of book one: Transient Phenomenon

Genre & Publication Date: Sci-Fi/Cli-Fi, June 27, 2017

Book Description: “After surviving disaster and betrayal on Earth, Ash and Skye return to Luna with news they hope will unite their rival colonies. But not everyone welcomes the change their discovery promises to bring. Can they save their two communities, or will the conflict shatter their nascent partnership…and with it, the last chance for a nearly extinct human race?

“Escape Velocity”, the fourth volume in the “Syzygy” novella series, will thrill fans of contemporary science fiction classics like Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”. Don’t miss Part I, “Transient Phenomena”, Part II, “Opposition Effect”, and Part III, “Retrograde Motion”, also available for Amazon Kindle.”

First Line: *Censored for spoilers*

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

Another awesome installment in this series that is becoming one of my favorites. After an unexpected turn of events Ash and Skye are forced to drastically alter their plans. Things are turning more dangerous than when they faced a spore infested planet, and some truths they held close are challenged by betrayal. As they risk their lives to work toward a potential solution to mankind’s greatest catastrophe, they’re confronted by political posturing and power grabbing rhetoric masquerading as salvation. I really enjoyed the intrigue and the fact that there are still allies even among people who might seem like enemies at first (and vice versa as well). This made the lunar communities feel so real to me.

The personal journey of our main characters Ash and Skye continue. I love how they keep learning new things about themselves and each other as they face these dangers. Each installment has me getting to know them on a deeper level than the previous one. I also love how they proactively strategize. Yeah, things are looking bleak, but dammit, they’re still going to fight for their people. And if one plan fails and they manage to survive, well then, they’ll try again. Their mix of pragmatism and optimism is addicting and I’m dying to see what happens next.

The Magical: The scientific research set against the backdrop of ignorance and politicking was a great juxtaposition and an excellent example of how humanity ended up in this situation in the first place. It really had me growling with frustration–not that my tolerance at the moment for this kind of thing is stretched thin as a wafer cookie or anything. I mean, after all, if it weren’t for politics I might still think the world is round. (Apologies if the sarcasm dripping off that fell onto your device. I’ll pass out towelettes.)

The Mundane: Something really awful happened to one of the main characters (it was really cool too but, you know, in an awful way). It wasn’t contrived feeling at all and really altered the dynamic between the two protagonists in a believable way. So, the thing I noticed is really minor given everything else and maybe no one else would see it, but I wondered why later it didn’t seem like the experience troubled the character it happened to other than some lingering physical stuff. I expected this person to grapple with it mentally a bit more, kind of in the way someone who survived a near drowning would be nervous about going near the water again.

Or maybe I’m just a sickie and wanted to read more about a favorite character’s suffering. There’s always that possibility.

Summary of Thoughts: Currently this book is $0.99 on Amazon. If you haven’t caught on to the fact that this is an awesome series by all the four and five stars I keep giving it (and my dedicated gushing about it), then here’s an extra reminder: It’s amazing! And NEW. I feel like I run across so many recycled plot lines and genre formulas these days. This story line is one I’ve never read anything like before (and y’all know I read constantly). A poignant look at our potential future through the lens of an environmental crisis that isn’t all that fictional. This is yet another fantastic installment just as strong as the rest.

four-star-review

Many thanks to author J. K. Ullrich for providing a copy of the book to review!

Want to learn more about this author and her work? Explore her website here

In the Spotlight: The Blood Mage

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I’m excited to announce the release of The Blood Mage, book two in the Changing Tides series by author and fellow Indie cohort Aimee Davis. Book One, The Wheel Mages, is currently available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited if you want to catch up.

The review of The Wheel Mages is coming soon to Amid The Imaginary!

Monster. Murderer. Oathbreaker.

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Three years after the events leading to the deaths of her friend and lover, twenty-one-year-old Alena Kozlov is still trying to outrun her past. But the darkness within her is not something she can simply leave behind.

The nightmares plaguing her become reality when a familiar face seeks her out in her isolated desert home bearing news that awakens all she’s tried to keep locked inside. There’s a promise she made long ago she’s determined to keep, even if it means she will have to tear what remains of herself, and her world, apart.

To save her friends, she may have to become the monster once more. But fear is not for the damned.

Grab your copy on Amazon or add it to GoodReads today!

If you’d like to know more about the author and her work, explore her website here

 

 

Blood Currency

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Title & Author: Blood Currency (Feeding the Vampire & Hunting the Siren)

Genre & Publication Date: Paranormal/Erotic, December 19, 2016

Book Description: “Feeding the Vampire

Through good luck and healthy cowardice, Misty has survived the earthquakes that have torn the world apart, but has no skills to speak of. Or so she thinks. She does have blood, and someone must feed the vampire who has offered his protection and strength in exchange for sustenance. Feeding Ivan is a priority, and Misty finally serves a purpose. But when she awakens tied to his bed, an unwilling gift to Ivan from the townspeople, she discovers he has hungers other than blood. Hungers he expects her to satisfy in the most carnal manner. Under his seductive persuasion Misty discovers she has the power to sustain Ivan in all ways, while experiencing unspeakable pleasure herself.

Hunting the Siren

A vampire queen grown powerful with age, Imogen has protected her band of nightriders through the centuries. When refugee vampires from earthquake-shattered Europe seek shelter and sustenance, she’s honor-bound to feed them, by any means necessary. When her lieutenants dump the vengeful human man Kasar at her feet, Imogen succumbs to his masculine vitality and her overwhelming hunger for his blood—and his body. Kasar has survived the breaking of the world, only to discover the vampire queen has slaughtered his sister and her unborn child. With the last of his bloodline dead, only his desire for vengeance keeps Kasar alive. He imagines he can pretend to succumb to Imogen’s seduction—not that he has much of a choice, chained as he is to the foot of her bed—and bide his time until he has an opportunity to kill her. The passion he finds in her arms is unexpected, and impossible to resist. But this haven of desire and satiation could easily destroy them both.”

First Line: “I’ll do it,” I said.

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world this book gives us a pair of yummy vampire short stories. With a natural disaster that left the earth shattered and civilization fallen, I could definitely buy into the idea that if there were vampires around, there’d be little need for them to hide anymore. This sets the stage for a couple of interesting scenarios the author brings to life.

Unlike other duology packs I’ve read in the past, these two stories are completely different from one another even though they share the same setting (albeit different continents). The first one was in first-person, the second in third-person. The voices were distinct from one another and the central focus of each conflict unique. And let’s not forget the sizzle. Wow, can Kennedy heat up a scene! I burned my fingers tapping through the pages. *fans self*

I wanted to add as well that everything remains consensual in this area because the synopsis might scare some off. This is a vampire book. It’s all about the seduction, folks. Characters resisting temptation because they think they should, not because they want to. As always, Kennedy strikes that perfect balance between conquest and affection. Trust me, you’re safe in her hands.

The Magical: Ahhhh, the vampires were SO well done! These were not angsty, human-like versions of this mythical being. These were creatures of the night, ancient, otherworldly and frightening, yet utterly magnetic.

The Mundane: Both stories ended where they should and without tying everything together into a bow (the world is still in ruins after all), but I wanted mooooooore! *undignified whine*

Summary of Thoughts: Currently this book is $2.99 on Amazon, or free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription. I really enjoyed it. It delivers exactly what it promises with a pair of stories that will totally consume you. A reminder that this one has scorching romantic scenes in it. Five alarm chili, if you take my meaning, but oh, you will love the burn.

four-star-review

Many thanks to author Jeffe Kennedy for providing a copy of the book to review!

Want to know more about this author and her work? Explore her website here

The Debt Collector: Season One

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Title & Author: The Debt Collector — Season One, Susan Kaye Quinn

Genre & Publication Date: Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk, December 31, 2013

Book Description: (From Season One): “In this sexy, gritty future-noir, debt collectors take your life energy and give it to someone more “worthy”… all while paying the price with black marks on their souls.

Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat and jackboots—he’s just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja’s sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane… until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn’t what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone—a dark pit he’s not sure he’ll be able to climb out of again.

Originally written as a serial, SEASON ONE of Debt Collector contains the complete story of Lirium. There are five planned seasons, each from the perspective of a different debt collector.”

First Line: My jackboots are new, the latest ultra-light material out of Hong Kong’s synthetics district, and they make a strange squeaking sound against the hospital floor.

My Take: I feel like I don’t get to read enough cyberpunk. There’s Sci-Fi that comes close but doesn’t have enough grime and despair to really hit the spot. This hit the spot.

Season One features Lirium. He is what’s known as a debt collector in this dystopian world, a person able to draw the life force from another with a touch. All debt collectors work for a centralized government agency who determines which individuals should be “cashed out” and which ones are deserving of  “pay out” (extra life force). This determination is based on your cost to society versus your contribution to it. Got a medical condition you’re not going to recover from and debts that exceed your ability to pay? Well then, it’s likely you’ll see Lirium show up at your hospital door to take the days/months/years you had left. In this future, the government feels your life force is worth more to society in the hands of “high potentials” than with you. Who are these high potentials? You guessed it, people with money, power, and positions of influence who bring innovation to the world. Sounds like a scenario rife with corruption? Ah, that’s where our story begins.

Lirium does a job that eats away at his soul every time he takes life from the poor, the indigent, and the infirm only to pass it on to someone in perfect health who gets to have a boost because of their status. He fills in the emptiness with shallow pleasures to forget long enough to survive until his next assignment. Definitely a flawed dude what with the prostitutes and booze, but a tortured one whose remorse is slowly killing him. Then one day he meets a girl who isn’t what she seems and asks him to pay out to someone who really needs it. Things only get more interesting from there with government intrigue, an illegal black market trading in life force, the mob, and fellow debt collectors who may or may not be on Lirium’s side.

The Magical: As always, Quinn’s worldbuilding is top notch. So many layers from the bottom of society up, from the dingy alley dealings to the ivory tower exchanges. She makes it seem so real I start to get a little nervous given the health care crisis we have going on in the U.S. right now.

The Mundane: Didn’t feel like we needed two love stories for our hero. I still rooted for him all the way, and it’s not that he was a player, but this made it hard to believe he was actually giving his heart to someone in truth.

Summary of Thoughts: Immersive and fast-paced, this series has been optioned for virtual reality by Immersive. Characters are flawed but compelling, their motivations complex and believable. This one had such a unique premise and the gritty cyberpunk world just added to the awesome. There are two seasons out and I really hope the author keeps going with this story. Originally published in segments, the entire first season (all 400+ pages) is on sale for a limited time for only $0.99 (also on Kindle Unlimited). Less than a buck, people. Can’t do better than that for a great read!

five-star-review

Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here

Want to know more about the author and her work? Explore her website here

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

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Originally I didn’t have any intention to see the new Wonder Woman movie in theaters even though she was one of my favorite super heroes as a girl. The preview looked promising but DC’s movies, eh…*sad head shaking*. They’ve lured me in with awesome trailers before only to find out later that the preview had a better plot line than the actual movie. But then the Wonder Woman released and everyone exploded about it and I thought, “Well, all right then. I guess I better see what it’s all about.”

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The result? It’s the best DC movie to date. Hold your applause, people, that’s not a high bar. The truth is, it’s a good movie. It’s not MOVIE OF THE YEAR, but it’s good. It has a coherent story line (apparently DC thought they’d give that a try), a character arc for the protags, and a satisfying conclusion (even though the end was a tad CGI wonky and included some too-stupid-to-live moves by the Big Bad).

So, why is everyone going bananas over this movie?

Well, even if the story isn’t the best ever made, it 100% portrayed the Wonder Woman we’ve always loved. The one who is strong but not vengeful. The one who seeks truth and cuts through the pretenses. The one who believes in the best of us even when we’re at our worst. A warrior who kicks some ass but is also capable of a smile. A woman who can love a man but owns her own destiny.

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Gal Gadot portrayed her perfectly. Aside from her obvious knock-you-over beauty, she exuded that hope, strength, and intelligence we associate with Wonder Woman. And Lord, she was TALL. I loved that they didn’t try to downsize her at all. I mean, you could see she was one towering woman. The movie itself started out centered on the Amazons on their hidden isle. In fact we didn’t even see a man show up for quite a while. It’s a bummer that this is something noticeable because it means we aren’t accustomed to movies revolving strictly around a woman’s story.

That’s the part of the film making waves, in my opinion. It felt authentically dedicated to a woman’s journey. It didn’t devolve into anything catty with other women. It wasn’t overburdened with a love story, though there was one. The man never rescued her from danger (excellent job on that score). It also wasn’t a role reversal where she had all the control over the men and they were subordinate to her. It was as though her presence uplifted the situation to one where respect was simply a normative state.

This isn’t to say there wasn’t sexism when Diana traveled to the world of men, but it wasn’t something that seemed to touch her, or at least it appeared to fall below her notice. It was there, we the audience saw it and detested it, but it didn’t have any effect on Diana herself. The comments slid off her like Teflon. Some have said they didn’t like that the character never addressed that issue, but I disagree. Considering the culture she came from, she did not understand she was seen as a “woman” in our world. She didn’t possess that concept as we understand it. She was herself, strong, noble, and heroic, unquestioning in her worth–a wonder in every sense of the word. I only wish we had loads of examples like this to show our girls.

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Will there be more Wonder Woman movies, independent of Batman, Superman, and the Justice League? I hope so, because it would be a shame if this fell into the “Okay, we did the Wonder Woman origin story so we’re done with that. Back to the shitty male-centered ones we were busy with before.” That would be a shame, if only because of how unsurprising it’d be.

Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you think?

The trailer (RAWR!!):