Aliens – The Truth Is Coming

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I have a short story out this week in a brand new anthology by Tickety Boo Press, UK. Aliens – The Truth Is Coming has a great line up of authors, with a wide variety of takes on the theme.

From the publisher:

Many of us look up into the wondrous night sky and know that we are looking at a galaxy full of life. It doesn’t matter that we haven’t discovered definitive proof of it yet – we know it’s out there and, perhaps, looking back at us, wondering the same thing in return.

The stories in this anthology explore myriad ideas of what ‘extra-terrestrial’ could mean. Not only to humanity, but to individuals. 

You will read stories of invasion, stories of loss and discovery, stories of trickery and subjugation, and so much more.
This anthology throws the doors wide open, and all you need do is step through… 

And here are the authors:

Foreword and Acknowledgements by Andrew Angel

Stories:

In Plain Sight by Juliana Spink Mills

Geometry by Alex Davis

Gods of the Ice Planet by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Island Visit by Nathan Hystad

Even the Klin Are Only Human by Bryn Fortey

A New Dawn by Liz Gruder

Rent by Steven Poore

Salvage by MJ Kobernus

The Devil’s Rock by William Anderson

The Man Who Wasn’t Dead by Terry Grimwood

We Three Remain by Stewart Hotston

Welcome to Cosmic Journey by Michael Chandos

The Zoo of Dark Creatures by Leslie J Anderson

Here by Tim James

 

You can find the anthology on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

The Write Stuff: author blogs

So you’re a writer. Perhaps you’re still at that fledgling phase, taking those first word-steps into the world of stories and looking for some guidance and support. Or perhaps you’re on your tenth novel and just looking for a jolt of inspiration. Wherever you are in your journey, inevitably there will be moments where a little craft advice comes in handy.

The Internet is full of free (FREE!) blog posts written by us writer-type folk out there. There’s something for everyone, for all tastes. I used to feverishly check out dozens of blogs by my favorite authors back when I was first starting out on my own writing journey, looking for pearls of wisdom from the Great And Published that resonated with me. Over time, I discovered a few that I love enough to keep checking on a regular basis. Here are JUST SOME of my many personal favorites – author blogs that give great writing advice or provide information I can apply to my own work.

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Chuck Wendig, for the writer’s blog equivalent of a shot of very dark espresso, or tequila perhaps, depending on the time of the day. Chuck’s blog isn’t for everyone – his writing advice is very sweary and tongue-in-cheek, but so much fun to read.

Jo Zebedee writes extremely candid blog posts on writing and publishing, and you really can’t go wrong for an honest breath of fresh air in the blogosphere. Her posts are always useful and to-the-point.

Thaddeus White’s blog has a mixture of writing posts, book reviews, and gaming write-ups. He’s always interesting, but my favorites are his history posts: prime inspiration material for muse-hungry writers. (I rather like this one on Eastern Empresses.)

The Winged Pen is a writing craft blog run by a group of both published and unpublished writers; there’s always plenty of good advice and they also have a monthly critique session contest.

Jim Butcher’s website has a hidden gem: if you click on his now inactive blog and scroll down to the very first entries, dating from 2004, you’ll find a ton of writing craft info written in Jim’s trademark hilariously snarky style. This was literally the first ‘proper’ writing advice I ever read when I decided to take my own work seriously. I owe Jim big time for helping me complete my first ever novel, back in 2012 when I was still trying to figure out how things worked.

Juliet McKenna has a wonderful blog, with plenty of writing-related posts to browse. If you’re looking for great pieces on writing about subjects such as gender, history, or mental health, this is definitely the place to visit.

Dan Koboldt runs an amazing series of weekly blog posts named Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy, which he describes as “a blog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction”. Each week he’s joined by specialists in a number of fields – from biology to space travel – offering their expertise so that writers can get the details right in their work.

Latinxs in Kid Lit has a nice series called The Road to Publishing that focuses on the query/agent/editing side of things. Some great personal stories and information. (And it’s a very nice project that’s worth checking out!)

Saturday Sweethearts: page and screen darlings

I started watching Season 1 of MTV’s Teen Wolf this week because #curious, and because I’m twelve years old inside (I’m always telling people that and somehow they never believe me!). I may already be hooked on the show (okay, I’m hooked), and it’s mostly because of Dylan O’Brian’s work as ‘Stiles’ Stilinski.

His character is sweet and funny, and is responsible for some absolutely laugh out loud moments. Seriously. It’s been a while since I’ve actually laughed out loud at a show like that (and yes, I know it’s technically a drama or something, but STILES!).

Me being me, and a writer-type person, I’ve been trying to pick apart what I find so appealing about his character, and of course that made me think about other funny, sweet, and slightly quirky characters who brighten up the stories they live in. Here are some of my page-and-screen favorites.

Leo Valdez (Heroes of Olympus series, Rick Riordan)

I’m a huge fan of Riordan’s work (my kids know I get first dibs on all the new books) and he has a lot of fantastic characters. But Leo’s been one of my faves since he first waltzed onto the page in The Lost Hero. He’s intelligent, talented, and fiercely loyal. He’s also a wise-cracking prankster who uses humor as a shield and a weapon, and who broke my heart over and over for doggedly keeping going with a smile while feeling small and ignored inside. SERIES SPOILER: a quiet and heartfelt thank you to Rick for series ending reasons.

Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling)

There’s no writing about sweet and quirky without mentioning Luna. She’s practically the poster child for it, and my top HP character too. Like Leo, she’s fiercely loyal to her friends. And also like Leo, she keeps on going with a smile even if inside she must be sad and lonely – because seriously, the amount of bullying and derision she comes up against in the series is gut-wrenching. But Luna remains true to Luna, and she refuses to bow to peer pressure and convention, remaining an adorable ray of sunshine. She IS her name: ethereal and moonstruck, blessed with a huge heart and lots of love to give.

Waldo Butters (The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher)

I love Butters. He makes me smile every single time he appears. He started out geekily sweet and earnest, equal parts terrified and fascinated by Harry Dresden and the supernatural world. He’s grown since then, maturing and becoming more powerful and at ease, but he’s still essentially Butters and he still makes me smile. Also, have you READ Skin Game? (Been there, bought the t-shirt. Literally. See photo below.) Go, Butters!

Verity Price (InCryptid series, Seanan McGuire)

Verity isn’t the sidekick or wacky best friend – the usual suspects for this sort of character description. She’s the Big Main Character. But she definitely falls under the banner of sweet, funny, and quirky. She cracks me up with her running commentary on everything from ballroom dancing to her sex life. (What?! I can like characters with sex lives. Just because I have Leo and Luna on my list doesn’t mean I’m ACTUALLY twelve.) She’s also a darling who would do anything to save her friends. And although she’s a kick-ass warrior with a weapons collection to rival that of many fictional assassins, she still manages to get herself into situations that are as hilarious as they are dangerous.

Francisco ‘Cisco’ Ramon (The Flash, CW)

Cisco cracks me up. It’s that sweet and slightly dorky grin of achievement every time he comes up with a new name for a villain. It’s that adorable never-give-up optimism of his. It’s his insistence at playing fashion designer for every hero on Flash and Arrow, and being so incredibly proud of his costumes. It’s…pretty much everything about one of my fave characters on a show FULL of fave characters. (I love them all. I want to hug them all and buy them puppies.) Cisco is such a nice guy, it actually breaks my heart a little whenever he has a sad or frowny moment. (And then I want to buy him MORE puppies.)

‘Stiles’ Stilinsky (Teen Wolf, MTV)

The new kid on my list. He’s supposed to be the sidekick, but in Season 1 at least, he steals the show. (“Why is it starting to feel like you’re Batman and I’m Robin? I don’t wanna be Robin all the time!” S1E3) His one-liners are hilarious, and so is his brain-mouth-disconnect-blurt-everything-out style dialogue, but it goes beyond that. He’s extremely loyal, and always ready to drop everything to help out his best friend, or anyone else who asks for help, even if he doesn’t actually like them. He’s a genuinely nice guy. And yes, I’m insanely jealous of the scriptwriters for coming up with this character!

Beast Boy (Teen Titans, 2003 version, CN)

I miss this show. I miss this show A LOT. Sorry Teen Titans Go!, but no. Just No. Nice try, but you’ll never be that glorious 2003-2006 version. All the characters in Teen Titans were great, but Beast Boy was my darling. He was sweetness incarnate, with an extra side of goofy and adorable. Seriously, did anyone NOT like Beast Boy in this show? In fact, I’d settle for a new show that’s just Beast Boy going around being nice to people as he turns into different animals. Can that be a thing? Please?

 

These are just a few of my book and screen darlings. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

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Butters (Dresden Files) t-shirt from the Worldbuilders store

 

Release Day! Starr Fall by Kim Briggs

Today is Starr Fall‘s book birthday! Happy release day to Kim Briggs. Kim was one of the first SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) members I ever met, at my first ever writing conference. I was a bundle of nerves, and Kim was one of several writers who showed me that, hey! I could do this thing called ‘conference’ and have fun, too!

Starr Fall is Book One of Kim’s brand-new YA series. It just landed in my Kindle, so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But if it’s anything like Kim’s fast-paced and exciting NA thriller, And Then He, I know I’m in for an adrenaline-fuelled ride.

Check out the blurb…

On the run from the Organization, Starr never planned on falling in love.

Starr Bishop’s the complete package. A perfect smile, brains to match, and a winning attitude. Boys want to date her and girls want to be her. She’s the type of girl you want to hate, if only she wasn’t so damn likable. But don’t worry, she’s not interested in your boyfriend. Boys are one complication she can live without.

When the Organization decides she’s not only the model student but the ideal assassin, Starr’ll need a lot more than high test scores and extracurricular involvement to get herself out of that commitment.

Dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood is the last person she’d expect—or even want— to come to her rescue. From opposite ends of Webster High’s social hierarchy, their lives collide in one electrifying moment. Christian isn’t the Goth loner he pretends to be, he’s a part Cherokee, All-American boy who wants to be a hero, Starr’s hero. Christian makes Starr forget that the Organization is after her, but nothing will stop the Organization from collecting their top recruit.

By the way, the spot for junior class president just became available.

 

And if that isn’t enough to catch your eye, here’s an excerpt from the book:

“I didn’t tell you about my aunt,” he smiles.

“Is she a secret agent? Because that would really be convenient.”

“No, but almost as good, she’s a doctor. She works from time to time in hospitals, but her true passion is Doctors without Borders. She stayed home most of the summer and fall, but she’s not as happy in the states as she is in the field. A month ago, I finally convinced her I would be fine on my own.”

“So, let me guess. She’s on assignment?” I eye him warily.

“You got it. Darfur to be exact.”

“How long?” He turns to me. A crooked smile crosses his face. “Months and months.”

I almost get lost in his smile, but I catch myself. I can’t get distracted. “No.”

“No?” he says, “What do you mean ‘no’?

“I mean that you are not risking your life for me. Enough people are,” I gulp, “dead because of me. I will not put your life in harm’s way.”

“Too late,” he replies.

“No, it isn’t. Drop me off on the road, and I’ll figure this thing out.”

“No.”

“No? What do you mean no? Drop me off on the side of the road. I’ll be fine. I’ve survived this long, haven’t I?” I shout as I sit up in my seat. I tick off everything I’ve done over the past four days. “I escaped the test site, swam Lake Ontario, and have managed to hide out without getting caught. I am doing a damn good job of going underground.”

“No, you aren’t,” he says.

I could spit fireballs at him. “What do you care? I thought you were, and I quote, ‘done helping people.’”

He pulls over to the side of the road and puts the car in park. His expression gives no hint to his mood. “Because of this,” he says and locks his fingers in mine. Electrical currents surge through them. The wall I’ve kept up for days and days crashes down as I lose what control I had left. The thread is broken.

Starr Fall has received some pretty nice reviews already; scroll down to read a couple of them…

Giveaway!

I love giveaways… To celebrate Starr Fall’s Release, Kim has
swag to share!

One lucky winner will receive a bag of Starr Fall swag including bookmarks, all the fixings for s’mores (once you read the book, you’ll know why), and a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

So dive in, and enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway.

 

Reviews:

GERM MAGAZINE

Kim Briggs’ novel truly is a wonderful debut. From start to finish I was hooked, and all I could think about was what could possibly happen next. From believable characters to a brilliant new aspect of YA narrative, if you love action-packed thrillers, then this is the book for you! Now, to begin the wait until book 2 is out!

YA INSIDER

Abandon whatever you are doing and read this book! Imagine being an exemplary student there ever was. You have your life planned out to the minute. You take a placement test for what you assume is a summer internship, only to find out it’s a secret organization and they want you to be an assassin. If you can imagine this, you’ve just met Starr! Starr shows you how

much your life can change if just let go a bit! She would make a kick ass assassin… if only she wanted to be one! To help her escape from this is Christian. I need more Christian in my life!  Tall, dark, handsome and mysterious! While he seems like he’s uptight in the beginning, when he comes to the rescue of Starr you really get to see him. He’s sweet, sensitive, understanding, and above all an absolute gentleman.

It’s such a quick paced book. you could easily read five or six chapters without realizing how much time has passed! The ending left me wanting more! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! Book 2 of this series needs to come to come out tomorrow!

– See more at: https://www.yainsider.com/b/starr-fall#sthash.qpv4dLJy.dpuf

 

Starr Fall

Book One of the Starr Fall Series

(Inkspell Publishing, November 4, 2016)

By Kim Briggs

Kim once smashed into a tree while skiing. The accident led to a concussion, a cracked sternum, temporary notoriety as a sixth grader returned from the dead, and the realization that fictionalized accounts are way more interesting than just slipping on the ice.

An unhealthy obsession with conspiracy theories combined with a love of travel and happily ever afters led Kim to write her YA novel, Starr Fall, where a secret organization decides Starr Bishop would make the ideal assassin. While in hiding, Starr meets dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood. Cue the swoon worthy music. But it’s not all
happily ever afters for Kim, her NA novel, And Then He, explores the dark and scary corners of the human psyche. Following a night of innocent flirting with a handsome stranger, Tiffani finds herself in the midst of a nightmare she can’t escape. And Then He is available now through Amazon and other major book retailers.

Starr Fall will debut November 2016 with Inkspell Publishing. Starr Lost will
release in January 2017, followed by Starr Gone in June 2017.

 When she’s not doing something writerly, Kim can be found jumping into snow drifts with her three kids, husband, and dog. She’s careful to avoid trees.

  Twitter | Web | Facebook | Goodreads | INK Sisters Write 

Have Book, Will Read #13

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It’s the end of October and the Fall TV season is in full swing. But no matter how many episodes are piling up on the DVR, I’ll always find time for books in between Agents of SHIELD and Star Wars Rebels. And, hey! Today the first snowflakes fell in my corner of the world. Which means an extra excuse for snuggles and stories.

Recent Reads: Witches, fairies, goddesses…and the cool gleam of blaster fire in the dead of the night.

Liberator is the debut novel by co-author powerhouse duo Nick Bailey and Darren Bullock. This exciting and fast-paced tale is set in a future where humans and evolved-humans are spread across a galaxy dominated by big corporations with private armies.

A rescue story about a disbanded paramilitary team who get back together to save one of their own, Liberator is an adrenaline-fuelled ride of the ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ variety.

I’ve seen rave reviews for Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch all over the place, so when I spotted it at my local library at the front desk of the teen section, I grabbed it immediately.

The is the story of Safiya and Iseult, a Truthwitch and Threadwitch who, despite their wish to be left alone to just live their lives, get dragged into an impending war between neighboring empires for control of the region. This nicely-crafted YA fantasy has everything I could wish for: magic, adventure, intrigue, treachery, and a breathless and dashing escape.

Although historical romance isn’t something I normally gravitate towards, I couldn’t help being drawn in by the premise of Jodi McIsaac’s Bury the Living, with its blend of Celtic mythology, time travel, and adventure.

When former IRA member turned peace worker Nora O’Reilly starts having dreams of a mysterious stranger asking for help, it leads her to Brigid of Kildare, who sends Nora back eighty years to the height of Ireland’s civil war. The romance aspect is subdued enough that this novel should appeal to anyone who likes a dash of fantasy in their historical fiction.

I’d been looking forward to the release of Peadar Ó Guilín’s The Call, and devoured it in one afternoon as soon as it landed on my doorstep. It certainly lived up to all my expectations! This dark fantasy tells the story of Nessa, a teen living in a post-fairy-apocalyptic nightmare where the Sidhe wage war on the children of Ireland.

In Peadar’s dark world, Irish teens can be ‘Called’ at any moment and taken to the Grey Land to play games of torment and torture. Few survive, and those who do return alive are often changed in horrific ways. The Call treads a delicate line between fantasy and horror, without ever becoming too heavy despite the tension and terror. It’s an amazing book, and will definitely go down as one of my top reads in 2016. I liked it so much I badgered the author for an interview, which you can read over on SFF World.

Now Reading: Sequels, sequels, everywhere.

I’m almost done with Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound, the sequel to her awesome Updraft. I loved the first book, with its incredible above-the-clouds civilization and people soaring between living bone towers on artificial wings of silk. In the second book, Fran switches from Kirit’s point-of-view to Nat’s, giving the story a different slant and focus as it dives beneath the cloud layer that forms the boundaries of the first book.

One of this week’s new releases is Abendau’s Legacy, by Jo Zebedee. I shouldn’t even be touching this one, as I have a physical and virtual to-read pile that’s getting ridiculous. But I couldn’t help peeking inside, and the third and concluding title in the Inheritance Trilogy looks as though it will be as good as, or better, than volumes one and two. And that says a lot! You can see my review of the first book here.

To Read: Time to get my epic on.

I’ve been in the mood for some good old-fashioned epic fantasy for a while, so it’s a good thing I have two books all lined up and ready. The first one’s been sitting on my kindle, waiting for the right frame of mind. It’s Exile by Martin Owton, book 1 of the Nandor Tales. With book 2 on the horizon, I think it’s about time I finally dove into this beauty. The other book on is a relatively new release: The High King’s Vengeance, sequel to Steven Poore’s lovely The Heir to the North, which was one of my surprise faves last year.

I just looked out of my window and the snow is still falling steadily. But with so many great titles to look forward to, I say, “Bring it on.” I have blankets, I have tea, I have a warm dog at my feet. What else can a book lover want from life?

 

Downtime and the Back Burner

Every writer has moments when the flow of words stutters, stalls, comes to a sudden screeching halt. Call it writer’s block, call it what you want. In my case it’s usually a panicked ‘where do I go from here’ feeling which is almost always due to a misstep I’ve taken somewhere along the line. It’s that nagging sense of ‘something’s wrong’, and until I figure out what and how to fix it, I can’t move forward.

That’s where the ‘back burner’ comes in. That place at the back of your brain where you stick an idea to simmer while life goes on; never forgotten, but comfortably out of sight where part of your mind can worry away at it while you do other things.

While you have a little downtime from writing.

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Taking some time out at the White Memorial Conservation Center, CT

For me, downtime can be as simple as shutting off the laptop for the day, and going out to do errands and walk the dog. A couple of hours is sometimes enough to work out a plot tangle. Other times, if I’m really stuck, it can mean a week or two of doing nothing but reading other people’s words voraciously or binge-watching an entire season of Supernatural in the company of my daughter.

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A little break to enjoy the autumn colors

Eventually, after an hour, or a day, or a week, the pot finally stops simmering. The solution to my plot or character development problem is suddenly crystal clear. I can dive in again with new energy, and after taking a break things are stronger and better.

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Energized, renewed, ready for the next round

Everyone has their own approach to writing. Every writer has that rhythm that just works, and that is all their own. I love living in my made-up worlds, and can write happily for hours on end. But I get stuck, too. And for me, taking a break from time to time is essential to keep things moving.

All photos taken at the White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, CT.

 

October Updates

 

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Dog bed under table for strategic canine foot-rubs

Hello October, you lovely thing. Plenty of the good and the busy going on over here in my autumn-colored neck of the woods.

My Heart Blade edits are pretty much done! I have the wonderful experts at Laurel City Sword looking over my fight scenes at the moment, but apart from that…the manuscript is ready to place in the copyeditor’s capable hands. Although in the past I’ve worked with plenty of fabulous (and patient) beta readers and critique partners, this was my first time working with a professional editor. It’s been a really interesting and positive experience, and I’m sure there’s a whole other blog post right there waiting to happen.

I have a cover! Well, almost. There are all sorts of things that still need to be done to it before it’s ready to share, like adding a title. But my publisher has let me peek and Merilliza Chan‘s artwork is lovely, with a dreamy vintage feel to it. Here’s a teaser:

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Rose petals! So pretty! Shh, secret…

So what happens next? I have a sequel to write. That means I need to do some serious outlining first, and also a post-edits update of all my story and character arcs for the next three Blade Hunt Chronicles books. No spoilers for book 2 before book 1 is even out, but I may or may not have a heist tale in the works. I’ve been dying to try my hand at fictional armed robbery, and Night Blade is the perfect place for it.

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Caution: fictional armed robbery may or may not include swords

I’m looking forward to a busy October, and that’s just the way I like it. Happy words to all you writers and readers out there!