Saffron's Space

Nova ChroniclesIt’s been a while since I’ve posted on here but that’s because things have been BUSY. I’ve been trying to focus more on my fiction writing, rather than blog posts (I know we all miss ‘When Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact’). But the good news is that I now have many (9 to be exact) novels out now for you to enjoy.

In fact, book 6 (Junkie) of the Nova chronicles came out just a week ago! You can get the first five books in a box-set for just $5.99, but that low price won’t last so Buy Now.

So here is a breakdown of the Nova Chronicles:

Survivor_Ship_front_smlSurvivor
When everyone runs, who will stand?

Nova is a new recruit to the Jagged Maw: an elite bounty hunter guild.

During a routine collection, she finds herself dragged into the middle of an alien uprising.

The Ancients, merciless beings set on reclaiming the universe, have only one person left to stop them: Nova.

She must battle the Ancients, time, and her sanity, in order to stop the annihilation of the human race.

Fear the hero who has nothing left to lose.

Buy Survivor Now.

Pilgrim2_front_smlPilgrim
After her encounter with the Ancient s, Nova is more determined than ever to break free of the Confederacy.

When she arrives on a planet that’s been silent for over one hundred and fifty years, she discovers that the planet is far from abandoned.

In order to survive, Nova and her companions must fight.

When a historical enemy emerges, there will be more than their lives at stake.

Buy Pilgrim Now.

Hunter_SJ_smlHunter
Ever wanted to hunt a vampire?

They’re nothing compared to the lecheons Nova faces in this gripping action adventure.

The blood-sucking lecheons are running rampant on Boullion Five and the police have been over-run.

Nova is the only one who will take the job, but with deadly cunning, super reflexes, and a thirst for blood, the lecheons could prove too much, even for her.

It will take her killer instinct to survive, and even that may not be enough.

Buy Hunter Now.

Gambler3_front_smlGambler
When Aart goes missing Nova is forced to travel back to her hated home planet of Tabryn.

Her latest job to solve a casino heist takes her deep into the fetid underbelly of the corrupt planet, and faces from her past start to resurface.

It will take all of her strength to stay afloat as the past tries to pull her back to where it all began.

Discover the planet that made the bounty hunter in Book Four: Gambler.

Buy Gambler Now.

Justice3_front_smlJustice
After the Ancients and the lecheons, Nova is looking for something simple, but life is never that easy.

Murder, man-eating plants, and rumours of cannibalism from the Inner Galaxies all await Nova in Book 5: Justice.

Buy Justice Now.

Junkie_NewFront_smlJunkie

Nova’s Toughest Challenge Yet

Guns blaze and people die in a covert battle for survival when an army attacks The
Jagged Maw.

Nova clings to life, drugged and alone on an outer planet, while the hidden enemy will
stop at nothing. They strike like wolves in the dark, picking off bounty hunters until
everything comes to a head in a chilling confrontation.

Nova’s most gruelling and action-packed adventure yet…

Buy Junkie Now.

 

REVIEWS
“One of my new favorite series! ”
~ R. Reynolds, Amazon Reviewer

“A great series, full of action and adventure…Can’t wait for the next book.”
~ Harry Miller, Amazon Reviewer

Buy the Box-set now for just $5.99 and save over 50%.

SurvivorIt’s been a while in the making but finally Survivor is here.

Survivor is book one in The Nova Chronicles and is a gritty sci-fi adventure. It could be described as “Tomb Raider in Space”.

When everyone runs, who will stand?

Nova is a new recruit to the Jagged Maw: an elite bounty hunter guild.

During a routine collection, she finds herself dragged into the middle of an alien uprising.

The Ancients, merciless beings set on reclaiming the universe, have only one person left to stop them: Nova.

She must battle the Ancients, time, and her sanity, in order to stop the annihilation of the human race.

Fear the hero who has nothing left to lose.

For a limited time you can buy Survivor for just $0.99, OR you can sign up to become a Bounty Hunter and get it for free!

Hordes of Anarchy
The third and final book in The Lost Child Saga is here – The Hordes of Anarchy.

The Final Battle has Begun

The fate of the world hangs in the balance

The die has been cast and the cards have been dealt, war is unavoidable.

The battlelines are drawn. But what happens when a bigger threat emerges?

Dragon and human must stand together against impossible odds. The power of the Shard is a blessing and curse, it has haunted the army and now it could mean their total destruction.

When the challenges are so great how can anyone overcome them?

Will swords and sorcery be enough?

Does anyone get out of life alive?

Destiny unfolds, beasts rise, and heroes die.

Buy now and bear witness!

Lost Child Saga

If you haven’t started The Lost Child Saga yet, you can get the full box-set for just $4.99 (save over 30%)Buy Now.

 

Hello readers 🙂

Today I’m pleased to share a sci-fi short story I wrote recently.

And don’t forget… if you sign up to my mailing list before the 23rd of September you’ll get Book One of the Nova Chronicles for FREE!

Enjoy!

 

The Last Man on Mars

Randor stood, his entire body rigid, one hand raised in salute. He saluted for half an hour, just as he had done every morning for his entire life. He stood on the observation deck. The starlit sky spread out before him. The cold emptiness of space greeted him. He stared out past the thick glass, past the metal tunnels, past the red dusty planet and into the great beyond.

The mechanical alarm sounded once and he allowed his hand to lower back to his side. He stepped away from the observation deck and walked through the narrow metal corridors.

There were so many of them, it was like a rabbit warren spreading out in all directions. Of course the designers had expected the tunnels to be filled with people. The plan was for a brand new human colony. How that dream had died.

In his free time Randor had gone back over the news headlines and the reports from half a century before. There had been a lot of hope in those reports, a lot of dreams.

MARS COLONY PLANTS FIRST SEEDS

BOLD EXPLORERS SET FOOT ON MARS

FIRST MARTIAN BORN, ONE YEAR AFTER COLONISATION

Even fifteen years ago the outlook had been bright. Communications with Earth came in every day, albeit delayed by a few minutes depending on the time of year. But that was before.

Randor jogged down the corridor and ducked into the main communications room. Seven chairs sat empty alongside the equipment. They spun in circles as Randor walked past. He sat down on the only chair not covered in a thin layer of dust.

He held down the red communicate button and spoke into the microphone. “This is Randor of Mars Colony One, calling Earth Force Major.”

He waited for a few moments. Static beat at his ears.

“Repeat, this is Randor of Mars Colony One. Earth Force Major do you read?”

He fiddled with the dials and held down the speech button again.

“This is Randor of Mars Colony One, calling Moon Colony Alpha, do you read?”

Randor repeated the ritual five times, just as the protocol dictated. He had gone through the same routine every morning for the last seven years and in that whole time he hadn’t gotten a single response.

Next on his schedule was breakfast. He walked into the mess hall. Rows and rows of empty tables and chairs soldiered across the room. Each setting was an exact replica of the one before. The only thing which distinguished them now was the layers of dust.

Randor walked across the room and pushed his way into the kitchen through the swinging doors. A faded sign read ‘authorised personnel only’, but hey, who was going to stop him? He went straight to the frozen rations. He took the time to look over his options. There wasn’t really any point, he knew the stock by heart, but it was part of the ritual.

“Bacon,” Randor said. He often spoke out loud to himself. It helped remind him he was alive and not some lonely ghost. He grabbed hold of the packet and threw it into the auto-cooker. The machine whirred into life and internal lights flashed on.

Bing.

Randor reached in and took out the well-cooked bacon. He carried it with his cutlery into the mess hall and sat down at his favourite chair, the only one not covered in dust. It was in the corner of the hall, backed against the wall with a full view of the rest of the room. He only ever felt safe if his back was covered.

He breathed deeply and the smell of the meat wafted up his nostrils. He smiled at the sensation. He took out his knife and fork and went to work.

“It is recommended that vegetable matter is added to your diet,” the mechanical voice piped up from Randor’s wrist. The monitor kept track of his health, eating habits and exercise. It hadn’t saved any of the others.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m going to the garden after this,” Randor said.

He scoffed down the rest of the bacon and took his plate into the kitchen. He flicked on the water and washed the single plate before laying it on a rack to dry, alone.

Randor walked out of the mess hall and down another set of corridors which eventually opened into a garden. Glass panels faced the sky allowing the sun to light up the plants. They were descended from the original stock taken from Earth fifty years before when the colony was first begun. Carrots, potatoes, lettuce, all grew in the Martian garden. Of course they’d been modified, allowing them to thrive with less sunlight and drier soils.

“Water on,” Randor said as he walked down the aisles of garden beds. In response the irrigation system jumped to life and water trickled onto the plants. His eyes ran over each section, ensuring each tiny pump was still working. He leaned over and plucked a carrot from the ground. He chewed on it as he walked the rest of the garden.

Everything was in order, which meant it was time for his daily exercise. He went to the gym and jogged around the running track. His legs felt good as they pumped in time and carried him around the large trail. It circled most of the colony and had open windows looking out on the planet.

Randor sucked in a deep breath and enjoyed the burn in his lungs and muscles as he pushed his body to go faster and faster. Without the pain it was too easy to think while exercising. Too easy to reminisce and remember days gone by. Much better to push to the very extremes and keep his brain occupied.

Randor’s feet pounded on the track. Sweat dribbled down his face and the blood pumped through his veins. The outside planet blurred past as he ran. His human muscles, adapted over millennia for Earth, carried him at extreme speed in the lower gravity. People said (when there were people to speculate on such things), that a person returning to Earth from Mars would be bedridden with the sudden fatigue of higher gravity.

He sprinted around the track for an hour, the exact recommended daily dose of high intensity exercise. Once finished he headed to the showers. The warm water trickled down his face and back. It splashed over his muscles and washed the sweat away.

He felt good after the shower, invigorated. According to the colony’s schedule he had free time. He hated free-time. What was a man supposed to do for fun when he was trapped all alone? The only living thing on the planet? Possibly in the galaxy? His face tightened as he pictured the next two hours. They were completely empty; no way to distract himself from the loneliness. He would rather chew on rusted nails than face the haunting solitude that was free-time.

Still, ritual dictated that he follow the routine and the routine said it was free-time. Randor walked through the hollow colony until he came to the common room. There were chairs and couches set up around tables. There were games and shelves of books. He walked over to the bookshelves and scanned the titles. They were the same as yesterday.

“Read it, read it, read it,” he said as he moved his finger along the spines.

He gave up and walked over to the games cupboard. There were chess boards and decks of cards, Monopoly- Mars Edition and all manner of other games. The computers had games on them too but he’d already beaten them all… twice.

He could have listened to music but he hated the way it sounded like other people, other voices. It reminded him of an old riddle; if music plays in a Mars Colony and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?…

He pulled out a deck of cards and took a seat by the window. He gazed out of the glass at the red surface of the planet as he shuffled.

Randor dealt two piles of five cards, placing the second pile in front of the empty seat opposite him.

“How was your run today Eiran?” Randor said as he picked up his cards and looked them over. His voice echoed around the empty room.

“Mine was good too,” Randor said.

There was silence for a while as Randor considered his cards and then laid a queen of diamonds face-up on the table. He waited for a few moments, staring at the empty seat opposite him.

“It’s your turn Eiran, I wish you wouldn’t get so distracted.”

Randor got up and walked around the table. He sat in the empty seat and picked up the second hand of cards. He studied them for a while.

“I’m not distracted, I’m thinking,” he said. “Besides, you’re one to talk; I saw Hera staring at you earlier.”

Randor placed a seven of spades on the table, laid the cards down and returned to his original seat. He picked up his hand and his eyebrows drew together.

“There’s nothing going on between me and Hera. I don’t know why you always think there is.”

Randor ran his hand over the cards before finally laying down a ten of clubs. He sat back in his chair and glared at the empty space in front of him. The corners of his mouth turned down in a frown. His foot rapped on the floor and his finger tapped on the arm of his chair. It felt like hours.

“Goddamit Eiran, it’s your turn!” he said and shot to his feet. He threw his hand of cards at the empty chair and stormed away.

Randor was still fuming as he exited the common room and headed for his sleeping pod. His ears and cheeks were burning with the heat and anger flowing through them. Eiran could be so frustrating! The way he never had his turn, the way he always talked about Hera… the way he was imaginary.

He slumped down onto his bed. Another hour of free-time and then it was dinner. According to the roster he was on star-watch tonight. He let his eyes drop shut and drifted to sleep.

***

When Randor woke and had dinner he went to the observation deck and sat on the hard floor. He gazed out at the stars. They were so cold. They taunted him from the safety of the sky.

He hated sitting here by himself, it made it too easy to think, to remember, but it was part of the routine.

Everything had gone wrong seven years ago.

He’d been down in the deep, patrolling the under-colonies. At the end of the shift he’d gone up into the colony proper and he’d found nothing. No one walked the corridors; no-one was in the mess hall or common room. There were no voices, no communicators. He’d run from room to room calling out but no one replied. The only sign of habitation were piles of clothes scattered through the rooms and hallways.

Initially he’d thought it was a practical joke, at least for the first hour. After the first day he was pretty sure it wasn’t a joke but he held some hope. After the first week he was curled into a corner of the mess-hall. He chewed his fingernails down until they bled. Tattered pieces of skin hung from the ends of his fingers. He’d taken to pulling out his hair, one strand at a time.

Then he’d found the routine.

The routine was pinned to every wall, handed out to every citizen; it was what had kept the Mars Colony running through famine and despair. It helped him survive. He clung to the strict, logical instructions like a lifeline.

Two weeks after finding the colony abandoned Randor tried to communicate with Earth and with the Moon Colony. All he received was silence. Neither of them responded. It was like the entire galaxy had gone away and left him behind.

He’d tried to access the video feed, to watch what happened, but it required a security password. He’d spent days typing combinations into the terminal screen. So far he hadn’t found the right one.

So here he was, seven years later, following the same routine and staring up into the same empty sky.

***

 The next morning Randor stood to attention on the observation deck for thirty minutes with his hand raised in a salute. The time used to be spent on daily updates, the Human Anthem, a message from the President. Now all that was left was Randor with his lonely gesture.

Afterwards he went to the communications room, brushing past the empty chairs.

“This is Randor of Mars Colony One, calling Earth Force Major,” Randor said, his finger pressed firmly on the communicate button. He paused and listened for a response. Static met his ears. He opened his mouth to repeat the call when a crackling voice replied.

“Mars Colony One this is Earth Force Major. Urgent code red, Halucin Acute Virus outbreak. Millions dead. Isolation methods failed. Infected persons frozen en route. Do not o-” the airway went dead.

Randor’s heart was beating a hundred times a second. His ribs vibrated with the force of it and he felt his chest rising up to his throat. His face and neck were hot and blood surged around his body. He sucked in lungfuls of air but he couldn’t get enough.

“Earth Force Major! Earth Force Major! Do you receive?” Randor spoke furiously, his finger pushing so hard on the button it threatened to sink straight through the metal desk.

“Mars Colony One this is Earth Force Major. Urgent code red, Halucin Acute Virus outbreak. Millions dead. Isolation methods failed. Infected persons frozen en route. Do not o-”

“Computer, make contact with that speaker. I want him to hear me now!” Randor said and looked up at the main console which ran the colony.

“Error, communication impossible. Temporal impairment.”

“What does that mean?” Randor said, he gripped the arm of his chair; his knuckles were white.

“Message dated seven years ago, temporally impossible to regain contact,” the computer’s voice replied.

“Seven years,” Randor whispered.

This was it; this was what had happened all those years ago.

For seven years he had been left in complete silence without a single explanation. Until today.

“… Millions dead. Isolation meth-”

“Silence it unless another message plays,” Randor said.

The panicked voice cut off and Randor was plunged back into silence.

The Halucin Acute Virus. But that was just a lab experiment… All the nations and the independent colonies had sworn never to use it.

Someone had used it.

Randor wracked his brain, trying to remember everything he could about the virus. His mind was completely blank.

“Computer, give me a summary on the Halucin Acute Virus.”

“The Halucin Acute Virus or HAV is a synthetic disease designed to destroy human life. It was designed in 2035, the new alternative to nuclear war, but was banned by the United Nations and the United Colonies. The virus travels from host to host through the air and dies within minutes without a living host. Victims are vaporized due to extreme replication of the virus.”

Randor held his head in his hands. It was all so clear now. The Halucin Acute Virus was released. It spread through Earth and got into the frozen humans being sent to Mars. The cryo-chambers would have slowed the viral replication until they were defrosted and then BANG. The entire colony is wiped out in less than five minutes; leaving nothing behind but piles of dirty clothes.

The cargo ship arrived while he was down in the deeper tunnels. It was carrying the infected cryo-stasis bodies. A-tissue, A-tissue we all fall down.

Randor slid from his chair to the floor. He stared at the air in front of his face. His mouth hung open and a trail of saliva slid out of the corner and ran down his chin.

If the virus already wiped out Earth then it would have taken the Moon Colony. That meant one thing; he was the last human. His neck tingled. The sensation spread down his spine. The silence of the Colony grew louder until it was pressing in on him like a physical force.

He imagined the sheer infinitely of space. He pictured himself as the only human left amongst all the emptiness. He couldn’t breathe. His throat closed and he heaved to get air. He coughed and hacked, the force of it sending speckles of blood out onto the floor.

He fell into heaving sobs. His tears joined the blood. He would be alone for the rest of his life. He would never find love, he would never have friendship. He would never have a family of his own and when he died the entire of human history would die with him.

“No, no, no,” Randor whispered. He stared at the legs of his chair. His eyes glazed over and another line of spittle slid out of the corner of his mouth and dropped to the floor.

He collapsed to the ground. His cheek landed in a pool of blood, spit, and tears. He lay still, catatonic. It could have been for a minute, it could have been an hour, it could have been a day; time didn’t matter anymore.

By the time he swam back to consciousness his limbs and back were stiff and the cold had seeped through into his bones. His eyes stung with the tears he’d been shedding and his empty stomach growled.

He pushed himself to his feet and looked around the communications room. For the first time he saw the dirt and dust collected on the machinery. He saw the broken light which flickered in one corner of the room. He noticed the captain’s chair which had been empty for so long that the leather was peeling away.

Randor stumbled away from the empty room. He couldn’t think straight. He clung desperately to a single idea. He had to get away. There was nothing left for him here. He had to move, had to leave.

He went to the loading bay.

It was a massive room which extended out in all directions with a high ceiling. There were several ships pulled up in the bays, each a different size. Closest to the main door was a ship he hadn’t seen before. It was dark grey with the Earth Fleet symbol stamped onto the back. The door to the ship was still open, a gaping dark hole which beckoned to him.

Randor turned away from the ship and walked down the rest of the bays. He counted the ships as he went along. Four in total. Four ships abandoned in the Mars Colony Hangar.

“Four,” Randor whispered and his eyebrows drew together. “There should have been five.”

He wrapped his consciousness around the idea. He forced himself to focus on it; it was the only string still holding him to his sanity. He strode over to the nearest computer terminal and searched the hanger log. The entry door marked each ship as they came and went.

“Five,” Randor said, his eyes scanning down the list of names and times. “Come on, five.”

The second last entry was The Herald, which was the Earth ship, the one carrying the infected bodies. But then there was another. A ship left the hangar after The Herald arrived, five minutes after.

“The Beacon,” Randor said.

The Beacon had left the hanger after The Herald arrived. What if they were safe inside their ship at the time and they saw the disease spreading? What if they got out in time?

“They could still be alive,” Randor whispered.

His fingers feverishly tapped against the screen to find the calling code of the ship. He sent the call and leant against the wall. His heart was beating furiously and his head ached with hope.

“Please. Please be alive,” he whispered.

“Please!” He clenched his fists at his sides and desperate tears squeezed out of the corners of his eyes.

We all fall down.

END

——————-

SurvivorI hope you enjoyed The Last Man on Mars. If you like this kind of writing then you’ll love the Nova Chronicles. Sign up to the mailing list and get Book 1: Survivor, for free.

I’ll be posting more short stories here too, so if you’d like to be updated of new posts- the mailing list is a great way to do it!

For more thrilling short stories, go here.

 

Story FormulaThe Story Formula from David Masters is an excellent little book of ideas. The concept is simple, a bunch (52) ideas to get you writing, but it’s something every writer needs.

We’ve all heard of the dreaded writer’s block, and whilst you can fight your way through it with shear determination (see my cure for writer’s block here), it’s a lot easier if you have a bunch of ideas to work with. The Story Formula does just that.

The great thing about this book though is that it’s not just a list. There are exercises to get your brain thinking and also pointers so that you can find your OWN ideas. You can go to any old website and find a list of story ideas but I think The Story Formula goes beyond that.

So if you’re struggling for a muse click here and check out The Story Formula.

Or, if you’d rather keep procrastinating you can read a sci-fi short story here. 🙂

Last year I had the pleasure of hosting a zombie short story from Michael Cairns. This year I’m happy to host another fantastic zombie tale of horror from Michael:

Spirit RoomEris

 

SARAH

 by Michael Cairns

 Sarah doesn’t much care for alcohol. She tried it a few times in her teens and ended every evening with her head down the toilet. Now she settles for orange juice and occasionally Coke if she’s feeling wild.

Right now, she’s craving whiskey. Or Gin. Lighter fluid probably wouldn’t be too bad. Anything to dull the pain. Anything to take away the cold that seeps through her feet like she’s standing in snow and creeps up past her knees. Alcohol would burn it out and leave her all warm inside. She doesn’t think she’ll ever be warm again.

She stares down at the corpse before her and relives the moments leading up to this point. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s got about two minutes to live, so it’s probably not the best part of her life to be thinking about. It is, however, one of the most surprising.

She’d expected the mail-man, or possibly the cute guy who moved in down the road last week. She’d hoped it was the cute guy in a tight t-shirt, possibly a mankini. Those things weren’t sexy but they told you everything you needed to know. Alas, it was neither today’s post nor her latest sexual fantasy.

She didn’t know who it was, though she wouldn’t have recognised him even if she had. His face was twisted, the skin so pale it resembled freshly dried plaster. His teeth were on show from beneath gums that were cracked and bleeding and his eyes were sunk deep into his skull. They burned with a fire that reminded her of the girls on America’s Next Top Model. He wanted something, something so bad he was willing to kill for it.

It turned out he was also willing to crawl halfway down her hallway with an axe buried in his head for it. She had to admire the tenacity. It also turned out that what he wanted was her, or more specifically, her brains. She knew he wanted brains because that was all he said.

‘Braaaiiins. Braaaiiiins.’

She giggled the first time. He sounded like one of those funny zombies from the movies. Then he grabbed her arm and took a chunk out of it with nails that belonged in.. Well, America’s Next Top Model. She screamed and threw herself away from him, slamming into the bottom of the banisters and hitting the floor. She stared in disbelief at the blood streaming down her arm.

The strange man with the scary eyes put his finger in his mouth and licked the blood off. She never thought she’d want to see a mankini as badly as she did right then. Sarah scrambled to her feet and dashed down the corridor. His voice followed her, like wind before the storm.

‘Braaaaaiiiins.’

She reached the kitchen, banged through the back door and grabbed the axe off the back step. The patio was covered in splinters from a morning spent prepping wood for the fire. She hefted the axe, feeling the smooth wood against the old callouses and smiling. That fucker was looking for brains in the wrong damn house.

She stepped back into the kitchen and blinked. He wasn’t there. She took one step and then another into the hallway. She held her breath, heart thumping harder. Why wasn’t he calling out? Had he gone? She let out her breath as quietly as she could and sucked in another, holding it as she stalked down the hall. As she reached the front door, she heard it.

It sounded like a geriatric eating a peach, like Mr Horowitz down at the oldies home where she helped out. A slurping that implied not all the teeth were either present or working properly. Her stomach turned and she stepped into the lounge. He had Jinx. The bastard had Jinx and her cat no longer had the top of his head. His tiny cute eyes stared sightlessly across the room as the zombie – because let’s face it, that’s what it was – sucked his brains out the top of his skull.

She howled like a soccer mom who’s son has just been fouled, and launched herself across the room. The axe flew and struck the zombie right in the centre of the head with a crunch that bounced off the walls and drowned out her solitary sob. Jinx dropped to the floor a lifeless ball of fluff, and she scooped him up.

‘You bastard.’ She sobbed again and blinked away the tears. He’d killed her cat. Now he was lurching this way and that, mouth open and spilling half-masticated cat brain onto her lounge carpet. She should have kept the axe. She backed away to the door and the zombie spotted her. He staggered toward her, hands outstretched and mouth making empty chomping movements.

She reversed further, eyes never leaving the axe as it bobbed up and down in time with his steps. He reached the door to the lounge before he collapsed to his knees and she finally let out her breath. Spots flashed before her eyes and she put out a hand to catch the wall. She wasn’t quite quick enough and fell on her ass. Stupid. The zombie dug its nails into the hardwood floor and she expected it to crawl toward her. But instead it rushed forward like someone had kicked it up the arse and before she knew it, the zombie’s teeth were buried deep in her arm.

She screamed, thrashing her head from side to side and wailing. She gritted her teeth and grabbed the axe handle for leverage, then yanked her arm away. The sound of her own flesh tearing brought bile to her throat and she gasped, tears once again stinging her eyes. But she was free.

She shoved herself away down the hallway, scooting on her butt, gaze fixed on the zombie. She resolutely refused to look at the hole in her arm.

So now Sarah sits, staring down at the zombie who’s finally stopped moving. It’s done its job anyway. The cold has reached her waist now and she’s all too aware she no longer cares about the mankini. In fact, her craving is feeling altogether different. She thinks about Geoff next door. He’s an IT consultant, smart guy apparently. About as sexual as a Town Planning meeting, but she no longer cares.

Sarah gets to her feet and notices that her arm has stopped bleeding. The craving for alcohol is still strong. Maybe there’s something in that. Maybe whatever the disease is that’s creeping through her can be defeated by alcohol. Or maybe she just wants to get drunk before her life is over. Then even that craving is gone and Sarah fades like book spines left in the sun.

Geoff next door has always fancied Sarah. Unfortunately for him, the feeling is now mutual.

****

Michael CairnsChocoholic Michael Cairns is a writer and author of the superhero fantasy series, The Planets and science fiction adventure series, A Game of War. A musician, father and school teacher, when not writing he can be found behind his drum kit, tucking into his chocolate stash or trying, and usually failing, to outwit his young daughter.

At http://cairnswrites.com you can download a free copy of novella Childhood Dreams (A Game of War, Part one), find podcasts, free short stories, info about Michael, and of course, links to where you can buy his books.

Michael Cairns Banner

MyCopterMaybe personalised helicopters would be a better name for them?

Either way, they’re not far off. An EU research project is currently looking at designing and implementing personalised flying vehicles for everyday public use. That would certainly make the daily commute to work a little more interesting!

Of course there are still a lot of details that need to be worked out… these things can’t interfere with normal air travel, plus they have to be almost totally autonomous. Let’s be honest, most of the people I see on the roads would wreak absolute havoc if they were loosed on the air!

So get ready ladies and gents… it may not be long until you’re flying around in your very own helicopter 🙂

You can learn more about this project here: http://mycopter.eu/home.html

In other news there are currently seven (yes 7!) books of the Nova chronicles in draft stages. If you’d like to be alerted when the first one comes out (and get it for free) just sign up to the Bounty Hunter Newsletter. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed, sci-fi adventure. Click here for a taste.

BrainA fascinating study has recently been published in Nature which demonstrates the ability of researchers to both inactivate and reactivate memories in rats.

These rats were trained to respond to a certain stimulus. They were then exposed to a depotentiation protocol. After treatment the rats did not respond to the stimulus anymore.

Subsequently the rats were exposed to a potentiation protocol. After treatment the rats once more responded to the original stimulus.

Without getting bogged down in the details this basically means that the scientists were able to make the rats forget a specific memory. They were then able to re-install the memory on command.

This research has fascinating implications and is especially interesting when examined through the filter of science fiction. Without any exaggeration this is brainwashing. Imagine extending the method to humans, you could make them selectively forget something and then at the right moment, remember it again.

Look out horror stories like 1984, the reality just got a whole lot creepier.

Of course there are medical benefits to this research as well. The ability to ‘reactivate’ memories could be priceless to Alzheimer’s patients. There could also be benefits to PTSD sufferers as well.

What can you imagine being done with this research?

Does this research make any of your favourite science-fiction stories a possible reality?

There is so much going on in the field of space-travel that it can be hard to keep up. With projected Mars landings, the potential for off-world colonies and the commercialization of space-flight it’s easy to become lost in the noise.

One topic which has come under the spotlight is the upcoming plan to send the Torah to the moon in a kind of time-capsule. The plan being to keep it safe if the apocalypse should claim Earth.

TMoon Buggyhe Torah on the Moon project is the first of such plans which will also see the Hindu scriptures and Chinese philosophical works delivered to our off-world ‘back-up’. These will join the Bible which is already sitting on top of an abandoned moon-buggy.

There is a lot of controversy over these planned missions. The major being, should the focus be on religious texts when there are so many other items which humanity has to offer. What about the works of Beathoven? Or the art and inventions of Da Vinci? On the other hand, the religious texts are some of the oldest written works on Earth and have had huge implications on humanity’s history.

The other concern is that these missions will pave the way for cultural and religious disputes over the moon and other space territory. After-all religion has been the base cause of so many wars; could this attempt at saving the religious texts be opening old wounds best left forgotten? Or is it simply a beautiful way to preserve an integral part of humanity?

These are all difficult questions to answer. It is also an interesting debate as once more science and religion are thrown together.

What do you think? Is there anything wrong with these projects? What would you send to the moon as a memoriam of humanity?

Read more at New Scientist.
Picture: NASA

That’s right ladies and gents… it’s not long until the release of Book 1 of the Nova Chronicles… a fast-paced, action-packed, science-fiction adventure.

Survivor

Enjoy a look at the cover…

And imagine the adventure within…

You can get book 1 FOR FREE if you sign up to be a bounty hunter (<<< to your left), just one of many great bounties you’ll receive.

If you haven’t met Nova yet I suggest you take a look at Steel Gods of the Arena, a short-story overflowing with action.

 

 

The Nova Chronicles are for anyone who enjoys science-fiction and adventure but if you’re a fan of Tomb Raider then it couldn’t be more perfect for you.

Real Life Dragons

May 2, 2014 | Writing  |  1 Comment

There are so many dragon legends across so many cultures that people have always said that they MUST have existed. My response to this is of course they have. Flying reptiles… a.k.a. dinosaurs. It’s completely reasonable to think that ancienct cultures stumbled across dinosaur remains and came up with the idea of dragons. Of course they may not have had the technology we do today but if I was riding past a melting glacier on the back of a mammoth and saw a dinosaur skeleton I’d probably come up with some stories about it too.

Komodo Dragon

Take for instance the latest fossil find: Kryptodrakon progenitor, it’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to see dragon legends coming out of that monstrosity.

As well as dinosaurs real life dragons are pretty evident in every day life. Just look at lizards. Ok so they don’t breathe fire but let’s just say that came from artistic licence. The Komodo Dragons at least pack a powerful punch with bites will could see you dead from infection and in a lot of pain from venom, it’s not flames but it’s still killer.

So while we may still dream of having sentient flying dragons as pets I think for now we’ll have to content ourselves with lizards, their very distant relations.

 

I always used to dream of having a pet dragon which is what sparked me to write The Lost Child Saga, a series of books about a group of people and their dragon companions. If you could have a pet dragon what sort would it be?

 

Dust – Book Review

April 30, 2014 | Writing  |  Leave a Comment

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Dust coverWhat an epic end to a fantastic series.

Dust is the perfect finish to the story started in Wool and continued in Shift. Hugh Howey has really outdone himself in this final installment. A bunch of questions were answered, loose ends tied and mysteries solved.

I found Dust just as page-turning as the other two and my only disappointment is that it’s over. I do hope that Hugh Howey decides to write more of this story, if only because I enjoyed it so much.

I still have a few questions, about what actually happened to the rest of the world, but I think those questions are meant to be there, it’s part of the mystery and fantastic writing of this series.

If you haven’t read the Wool series yet, then DO IT! There’s been a massive fuss about these books for a reason: They’re really good.

An easy five stars from me and two fingers crossed that there’s another book.

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Shift is the second book in Hugh Howey’s phenomenal success story, following Wool. Just like the first book Shift is a fantastic read. There is so much drama, intrigue, thrill and teetering on the edge of collapse that I was on the edge of my seat.

Shift is interesting in that the events occur before the events of Wool (and kind of during). The new revelations which Shift revealed absolutely BLEW MY MIND. Everything I thought I knew from reading Wool was completely ripped up. If you thought you knew what was going on, I guarantee you didn’t.

If you’ve read Wool you’ll enjoy Shift, and you have to read it just so that you get a bigger picture. I can’t wait to read the third book (I fully expect my mind to be blown again). If you haven’t read Wool… go and do that now. (If you need more convincing there’s a review of it HERE).

The really frightening thing about Shift is just how possible the events are. I can easily see the same scenario unfolding… the same people thinking they’re acting for the greater good… If you enjoy George Orwell or the Bachman Books, you’ll like Hugh Howey’s work. It’s time well spent.

 

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I’m sure almost everyone has heard about the epic indie success story which is Hugh Howey and his book Wool. I must admit that at first I was a little skeptical… Wool… What does Wool mean? What is it about? … but after learning it’s a post-apocalyptic type novel I decided I had to read it.

I’m so glad I did.

Wool is the story of a group of people who are living underground in a silo. They’re living in a self-sustaining community and have been for generations. There are rules which stop people wondering what’s going on outside. But unrest is growing and secrets can’t be hidden forever…

I loved this one. Not only does it have a sci-fi post-apocalyptic feel, there was also a huge sense of mystery and thrill which left me begging to find out what had happened to lead to the silos in the first place. There was a lot of tension which had me flipping through pages and I was honestly torn up when I got to the end. (Luckily book 2 was right there… you can find a review of it HERE).

Wool was a perfect mix of human competition and society flaws. While initially the whole concept is completely outlandish you are immediately transported into the book and you suddenly realise how possible such a scenario is. Not only great entertainment but also an interesting bit of social commentary. The hidden rules and unmentionables reminded me straight away of 1984 by George Orwell.

If you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about I STRONGLY recommend you read this one. You will be entertained and left begging for more. An easy 5 stars for this one.

 

Do you like science fiction? You might enjoy Steel Gods of the Arena, a free short story. You can also become a bounty hunter by filling in the form above and you’ll receive Book 1 of the Nova Chronicles for free!.

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A few weeks ago I reviewed an absolutely awesome book; Lady of Devices. Today I’m super pleased to review the 4-book bundle of the series.

Magnificent Devices continued the fantastic series and I zoomed through it. There’s more books after this set and I will definitely be getting them.

Magnificent Devices

The premise is that the main character is thrust from her corset-wearing, ball-going, prospect-presenting life and onto the streets where she must rely on her intellect to survive. The books follow her adventures as she puts her brain to use and destroys the gender stereotypes of her environment.

I love the steampunk aspect of this book as well as the strong female character. Another thing which set this book apart from many others is that while there was a romance element to it, it didn’t make the book. Instead the book is focused on her adventures and her initiative – a nice change from the usual.

4.5 stars for this one and I’m super keen to read the next one!

SurvivorA little while ago I introduced my new character Nova. She’s a butt-kicking, future-living, bounty hunter… and she’s back.

 

Please enjoy the following short story and let me know what you think. If you like what you see you can sign up to become a Bounty Hunter (left of the screen) and receive Nova’s first book for free.

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Steel Gods of the Arena

By Saffron Bryant

Nova licked the sweat from her top lip and flicked a wayward strand of blonde hair from her eyes. She stared across the dusty arena at the metal monstrosity waiting to crush her. It was just her and her opponent. The cheering crowd, stomping feet and flashing neon signs faded into oblivion as she and her metal casing became one. She couldn’t even feel the tight straps which held her into her steel carriage.

Nova stepped forward and the metallic leg of her mech suit moved forward with her. The other foot followed and so on until she was running full-tilt across the ring. Her footsteps lifted more dust from the dirt-packed arena.

The man in the mech suit opposite her grinned; his entire arm was encased in steel, complete with a clenched fist. He crouched as Nova ran forward and when she was within reach, he punched upwards.

His suit was painted with red designs. The triangles and lines blurred with the motion of his swinging arm.

Nova ducked but she wasn’t fast enough. The merciless blow connected with the side of her helmet and the clashing metal sent her flying to one side.

She curled into a ball to protect her body from the landing. The metal suit took the impact and she leapt back to her feet as fast as the animatronic system would allow.

The man was already on her. His fists rained down in a flurry.

Nova sidestepped and whirled. She spun one leg around and it connected with the man’s steel stomach. The force made him stumble and he lost momentum.

She took the chance and slammed her metal fist into the back of the man’s head. He collapsed to the ground.

Nova stepped forward, victory assured. She raised her foot over her opponent’s head. She would end this thing with a satisfying spray of blood. The bell sounded.

“End round,” said a booming voice.

“Grishnak!” Nova cursed and stomped back to her corner.

The man on the ground struggled to his armoured feet and glared at her before moving to his own corner.

Nova’s robot, Cal, hovered up until he was level with her head.

“How do you feel?” Cal asked.

A panel opened in Cal’s spherical body and a whirring mechanical arm extended out holding a jug of water. He had been with Nova for a long time, a Class 4 Labourbot. He was outdated but Nova refused to upgrade. Cal was sturdy and dependent, unlike the new models which were sure to break after one year and needed a hundred different special attachments, each sold separately.

“Good,” Nova puffed.

“Confident?” Cal asked.

“Yep. Plus, we need the fuel to get off this trash pile.”

Cal opened another panel and a thin arm extended holding a white towel, or at least it had probably been white at some point, now it was a stained brown colour.

“Thanks,” Nova said.

She used one of her large mechanical fingers to press the green button next to her neck and the helmet of her mech suit retracted. She dabbed at her face and neck with the towel. Her sweat evaporated leaving cool traces on her cheeks. It was hot in the battledrome. They were fifty meters underground. Fighting underground was the only way to make a living in mech fighting—unless you wanted to hand over all of your winnings in taxes.

There was always a crowd in the battledrome. It attracted gamblers, drinkers and others who just needed to burn some frustration. The pits were a place for spilling blood. The mech fights resembled the old dog-fights but were far more brutal. A fight without a broken bone was considered poor form.

‘The pits’ was an accurate name for the mech fighting arena. They were set low into the ground with the stadium rising up on all sides. The fighters were locked inside for round after round until a winner emerged. There were no rules and no mercy.

“How’s the other business going?” Nova asked.

“We’ve got a couple of potential jobs. Got their details, you can look them over when we’re finished here.”

“Good.”

Nova’s ‘real’ job was as a deep space bounty hunter. If someone wanted something—or more often, someone—Nova would get it for them, but business had been slow and so here she was back in the pits.

The bell rang again.

“Get ready for round two,” the booming voice said over the loud speaker. “In the red corner we have the local favourite, Bust ‘em up Bob!”

The crowd cheered at the name and coins rained down from the stadium.

Bob stood and held his hands up to the crowd. He had apparently forgotten that his face had nearly been ground into the dirt by Nova’s boot only minutes before.

“And in the blue corner, all the way from Nowhere we have One-hit Wanda!”

Rule one of fighting in the mech pits, never use your real name. The crowd erupted into boos and hisses. Nova casually saluted them with one finger.

“Take your positions,” the booming voice said.

Nova lifted herself and her mech suit off the bench and stepped several paces into the ring. She slammed her fist into the button at her neck and her helmet slid back into position. Bob stepped forward to meet her.

“You’re not bad for a girl.” Bob sneered at her.

Nova ignored him. A scantily clad woman was let into the cage through one of the gates and began to strut around the edge holding a large card with the number two written on it.

Nova kept one eye on the girl and another on Bob. The rule was simple, as soon as the wire gate closed behind the girl, the round began.

“You know you’d do better as one of them,” Bob said and nodded towards the girl. “Yep, whorehouse is where you belong. I mean you couldn’t charge much with a face like that but it’d be more than you make here.”

The woman had made it half-way around the cage. Nova’s heart beat like a drum. Her veins pulsed with adrenalin. She enjoyed the fight, almost as much as she enjoyed the money which came with it.

The girl had a third of the cage left. She took time to wink up into the stadium. Nova couldn’t help but snort. Obviously, the girl had chosen the other way to make a living. Just like Bob suggested.

“I’d visit you, if you gave me a discount,” Bob said and puckered his lips.

Nova’s memory went back to her old orphanage and the mistress who ran it.

She had been reading books again and Mistress Roxy caught her.

“No point in pretending to read,” Roxy said. “You don’t come from no rich family. There are only two ways for a girl like you to make money in this world. You either learn to spread your legs or you learn to fight.”

The gate clanged shut behind the woman and Nova’s fist slammed into Bob’s jaw. Nova’s steel blow crashed straight through the thin metal around Bob’s face and caved in his left cheek. Bob fell to the ground like a heap of trash cans.

Nova looked down at Bob’s unconscious body, “Spreading legs was never for me.”

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If you’d like a deeper look at Nova’s adventures sign up to become a Bounty Hunter. You’ll receive book 1 for free as well as a bunch of other cool stuff!!

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Wow… what a fantastic book! I’ve been searching for quite a while for a really good steampunky style novel and now I’ve found it… the best thing is that it’s part of a series so now I’ve got the sequels to look forward to as well!

Lady of DevicesThe basic premise of Lady of Devices is that the main character, Claire, is stuck in the classic female role of her time- throw nice parties and be seen but not heard. Which of course she hates because she wants to go to uni and become a scientist. Anyway, her well-groomed lifestyle falls apart and she is forced to rely on her own ingenuity and intelligence.

I found the book extremely well written and interesting and is an excellent example of intellect triumphing over ‘social expectations’.

Story is excellent, characters are excellent, setting is excellent. The only room for improvement that I could see was that the old time ‘proper’ dialogue was a little bit clunky. But hey, that’s just my opinion and I’m sure there are other readers who will appreciate the true-to-setting speech patterns.

I’ve already bought the box set of the series and am looking forward to reading them, so 4.5 stars from me and keep an eye out for a review of the rest of the set.

Also, if you like strong female characters in your sci-fi be sure to sign up for my mailing list to receive Book 1 of the Nova Chronicles completely FREE when it’s released later this year.

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DoctorSleepAs you’ve probably already heard (and if you haven’t come out from under your rock), Stephen King has released a new novel; Doctor Sleep. It’s kind of a sequel to The Shining but you don’t have to have read The Shining to enjoy it.

I was sucked into this book from the very start. It was classic King style, tension, psychological thriller and supernatural aspects. It follows the story of several people who have the gift of ‘Shining’ which manifests in a range of special powers and abilities.

When an evil group of creatures who feed off of people’s ‘Shining’ (kind of like vampires) come onto the scene then the battle is on.

I highly recommend it for any fans of Stephen King, or anyone else who enjoys psychological/paranormal thrillers. 4 stars and a great read.

Some time ago I gave you a sneak peak into my upcoming sci-fi series (The Nova Chronicles).

I’ve started designing the covers for the first collection of books. Here is the tentative cover and title for book 2 of the Chronicles (Hunter). Let me know what you think!

Also, keep an eye out for a short story I’ll be posting soon, starring Nova in a mech boxing arena.

AND, if you sign up for my mailing list (top left) you’ll get a free copy of book 1 of the Nova Chronicles as soon as it’s available.

Hunter

 

 

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To cook up the perfect fantasy movie you just need a few simple ingredients (Note; this recipe also applies to books):

A reluctant hero:Heroes

 

A bumbling sidekick (preferably named Sam):

sidekick

 

Dragons:

dragons

 

Wraiths:

wraiths

 

A rescuing bird:

birds

Simply combine these and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

There you have it, a perfect fantasy movie. Speaking of which, I’m super excited to see the new Hobbit movie!

Who would have thought becoming a cyborg was so close to reality? We all know that 3D printing is cool but this week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, I want to show you something epic.

EarThis particular research team wanted to integrate electronic functionality with biological materials to make a bionic/cyborg ear capable of detecting radio frequencies. For copyright reasons I can’t paste the image below but I implore you to check it out:

The scientists used a 3D printer with three different ‘ink’ cartridges to build the structural, biological and electrical components of this ear.

While this particular ear wasn’t designed to last very long or be attached to an actual human it’s an incredible proof of concept. It’s a massive advance to medical and cosmetic research and could provide incredible benefits.

Imagine if you lost your ear while fighting an alien horde? No problem we’ll just print you off a new one!

Of course it doesn’t just stop at ears; this kind of layered approach could be applied to a myriad of organs.

 

If you could print anything from a 3D printer, what would it be?

How do you see this technology advancing in the future?

http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/nl4007744

I’ve been thinking that The Herald of Darkness cover just doesn’t do it justice. So this weekend I sat down and did a complete redesign, here is the result:

Herald of Darkness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compared to the original:

Old Herald of Darkness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think of the update?

If you like dragons, adventure, quests, magic and fantasy then I suggest you head over and check out book one of the series: The Fallen Star.

The Fallen Star Cover

P.S. I am considering extending my cover design services to others so if you have a fantasy or sci-fi novel that needs a cover please leave a comment below with your twitter handle or some way to contact you and I’ll be in touch.

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Forbidden Future is a time-travel anthology published by Masquerade Publishing. You can check out quick blurbs of the different stories below.

FF CoverI don’t want to focus on any one story in particular so this review is on the book as a whole. There were a couple of fantastic stories in this anthology, unfortunately there were also a couple that weren’t so great. So overall, I’m giving it three stars.

The anthology is beautifully edited and formatted- read like a dream so no problems there. The stories stuck to the theme (so it did what it said on the box)- also fantastic. If a couple of the not-so-good stories had been replaced with others then this anthology would have gotten at least 4 stars, BUT don’t just take my word on it. What I didn’t enjoy other people will love, it’s all a matter of opinion.

So, if you are looking for a few short reads in the time-travel genre I do recommend you pick up this anthology. I think time-travel stories are hard to pull off but these guys did a pretty good job: thumbs up all round.

Join the Rafflecopter Giveaway to win $25.

More information on Forbidden Future:

“Jump”

by Jon Bradbury

Jesse Kendall’s fiancee is missing, ever since she answered a strange ad. His only lead is a deserted warehouse downtown. In that warehouse he will find so much more than he bargained for.

 

“Road Trip”

by Matt Mitrovich
Four friends drive to a college party and take an unexpected detour into the future.

 

“Society”

by Terra Harmony
Take a ride on the ‘Energy of the Future’, where society gets a fresh, clean start – no matter who they have to leave behind.

 

“Forbidden Future”

by James Wymore

A time machine technician has given his whole life to the pure scientific pursuit of the study of time travel. When his personal life falls apart, he decides to risk it all and take a trip into the future. First, he must remove a failsafe blocking the machine from traveling to the future. What could be so bad that they tried to stop anybody from seeing it?

 

“The Mountains Haven’t”

by Kade Anderson

The people of the town of Dignity go about their daily lives, trying to scrape out a meager existence from the dirt and the dust of their land, never taking notice of the mountains that loom in the distance. To the others, the mountains are benign, as harmless as the grass their cows graze upon. To the town’s Watcher, Julia, the mountains hold the key to a far greater mystery.

 

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00F5K4XZS

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18520991-forbidden-future

Today’s When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, is more of a look forward. To 5 things I wish were a reality but which haven’t quite made it yet.

Microchip – The microchip. It has featured in science fiction for years and yet I still don’t have one. Sure you can get small computer chips but they don’t do what I think they should. In my mind the microchip should be inserted under the skin and from there allow:

~ Communication: like a very small mobile

~ Security: Instead of key’s or swipe access cards you just hold up your arm and the inserted chip does the rest.

~ Banking: No more cash or credit cards, it’s all stored on your chip. Just hold your arm over the checkout scanner and it’s done.

BiobulbBacteria/Organic Power –  I spoke about this one in more detail a few weeks back but the whole idea just fascinates me. I would love to have an apartment lit my the soothing glow of plants or colonies of bacteria. And talk about efficiency! Goodby power bill- the lights are now powered by a self-restoring ecosystem.

 

Hover Transport – This one is a classic, its been around for so long. Then why don’t I have a hover skateboard??? The concept was thought up so long ago that I am honestly shocked that these aren’t sold in every toy store. Not to mention hover-cars. I’m keeping an eye out for that Kickstarter project, that’s for sure!

 

Pill Food – I don’t know how many other people feel this way, but sometimes finding, making and eating food feels like such a waste of time! I cant wait until an entire meal can be packed into a single pill. So you just grab a pack swallow one down and BAM you’re full. Think of the time it would save! Not only that but it would make disaster relief so much easier- instead of carting huge lots of food you just take in a carton of these pills.

 

Teleportation – Another one that has been around for ever. Think how much time you spend traveling every day, to your work, back home. Taking the kids to soccer practice etc. It would be so much easier if you could just jump onto the telepad and appear right at the front door. There’s still some kinks that need to be worked out in the science of this but I can’t wait for it to happen!

 

What technology do you want to get your hands on?

What special gadgets do your sci-fi characters have?

My new character Nova has a couple of the items mentioned above; my way of living vicariously through her!

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The Nightlife: New York is a romance/erotica/vampire novel with a great storyline. I don’t usually enjoy romance novels but the vampire action of this one had me turning the pages.

The editing and formatting were professional and the book was easy to read. The novel is basically the story of a young man being transformed into a vampire and his initiation into the ‘nightlife’ of the vampire.

Nightlife New YorkThe main male character was great, the chapters from his POV were humorous but I also got a real sense for his character. The female lead on the other hand was not so loveable. It didn’t take long for me to HATE her with a passion. She didn’t take away from the story, although a few of her actions went against her own values which I found a bit inconsistent.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for some vampire fun, with the warning that it does contain erotic material.

My main criticism for the book is its ending. I think the author went a little over the top and was perhaps looking for some shock value. I won’t tell any spoilers but if I could change anything about the book it would be that.

So, if you need a fun read for the weekend The Nightlife: New York is definitely worth it (and at the moment its FREE, so what have you got to lose?).

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality. I want to introduce you all to some bacteria.

According to scientists these bacteria have been around for thousands, even millions of years. They live deep down in the ocean in rocks that are millions of years old. The incredible thing is that these bacteria only divide about once every thousand years.

With such slow replication the scientists raise the question; are they really alive?

This is a question which has stumped many. I challenge you to come up with a definition of life which clearly separates what we know to be ‘living’ from that which isn’t.

Star TrekFor more information on these bacteria please read the BBC article. As always I want to focus on future implications of these creatures.

1. The scientists already raise the point that these bacteria could be influencing the Earth’s environment. e.g. through altering the carbon cycle.

2. These bacteria go against everything we thought we knew about life. From their environment, to their slow reproduction, to their sparse distribution. If we can find such incredible and surprising species right here on Earth, imagine what we could find on other planets?

So, your homework this week is to design an alien species. And I don’t mean a green human- that’s not good enough. Almost all aliens in science fiction, from Dr. Who to Babylon 5, are humanoid. I want to challenge you to do better. A real alien, evolved on a planet separate to our own, has no reason to have eyes (at least not as we know them), or legs, or hair. It doesn’t even have to breath! These are all Earth concepts of life.

So let your imagination go and tell me about your alien life in the comments section below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I’m female and I read, and I see these things sooo often it makes me want to break things. Come on people, let’s break away from Hollywood stereotypes. Ok, if you’re writing a romance novel which is meant for women who only want to be saved, get married and have hundreds of babies, that’s fine. But, if you’re writing a fantasy, sci-fi, thriller or pretty much ANY other genre you had better keep an eye out for these, because it could cost you 50% of your readership.

Speaking from personal experience, if I see the following things in a book I’m reading, I straight away lose interest in the story. Mostly because it demonstrates shallow character development. These errors will cause a book to fall from a 4 star to a 2 star in the blink of an eye…. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

  • Make sure your female characters scream, cry and over-react every chance you get. Did thunder just strike? Was there a rustling in the trees? Is mist coming off of the water? These are not reasons to scream or cry! Can you imagine if you had a friend who cried every time they heard something rustle? Ok, so if they know they’re in the middle of a haunted forest and two of their friends have just been murdered, that might be different. But you better make sure that all of your characters, including the males, are scared… not just the females huddled in a corner waiting to be murdered.
  • Make sure their only ‘job’ in the book is to ask “Why? and “How?” in high-pitched tones, but never come up with an answer themselves. Yep, your female character’s only function in your book is to look up at the male hero with wide eyes and ask pointless questions. If they both just got whipped back through time and space, how the heck is he supposed to know why? Why don’t you have your female character start hunting around for clues instead?
  • Make sure your female character gets saved by the male character. Who hasn’t read the scene, how there’s imminent danger and the female character falls to the floor and begins crying and saying that she can’t possibly go on. Meanwhile the male character pushes down his frustration and gallantly kneels down beside her and talks her through it before eventually pulling her to her feet and helping her to keep running. Yuck. I’m sorry, but if there’s imminent danger it is human nature to KEEP RUNNING, no matter whether you’re male or female.
  • Make sure the female’s only goal in life is to attract a male and get married. I read a book recently which was classed as ‘sci-fi’ but it really shouldn’t have been. In it the main female character has just had some major success with her career. She also has a relationship going with a man. When she gets back from some important training for her new promotion he proposes… in the next chapter they’ve moved away, she’s now unemployed and spends her time doing the books for his business…. WHAT? She was super excited about her new promotion and she throws it all in to be his personal accountant? Everyone, including women have dreams that go beyond a white dress and a gold ring, make sure your characters do too.
  • Make sure the female gets angry and does something stupid, costing everyone big. The male character says something to offend the female character (perhaps commenting on the fact that she has to stop screaming and crying every five seconds). The female character storms off into the haunted forest. Now she’s put not just herself but also the other characters who must now go out and find her, in danger. And why? Because she couldn’t control her emotions enough to see how stupid that was? Because females are ruled by their hormones? Perhaps that’s just part of her character, she is whiny and stupid… well if that’s the case have your other characters tie her to a tree… at least then she can’t wonder off!

So come on people, let’s put a little more work into our character development. And these flaws don’t just happen in male writing, it happens in female writing too! I think the safest test is to imagine that it’s a male character performing the action… would you think he was a pathetic, stupid, wimp? Then chances are your female character shouldn’t be doing it either.

What pet peeves do you have when you read a book? Do you agree with my list? Do you have anything you’d like to add? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

 

So we all know that Bluetooth and wi-fi are great, being able to network computers and phones is fantastic, but personally, I don’t think it’s as good as it could be. That’s where the subject of this week’s When Science Fiction Becomes Reality comes in. The Ninja Sphere. Not only does it have an awesome name, it’s also sleek, sexy and incredibly intelligent.

The Ninja Sphere is basically a device which connects all your other devices whilst also providing an interface to interact with other objects; like lights, fans and pets. I think the video describes it best so please head on over and check it out: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ninja/ninja-sphere-next-generation-control-of-your-envir

But in summary:

– The device can be gesture controlled

– You can attach signals to pets, keys, phones etc and the device will be able to tell you where they are; no more lost keys!

– The device warns you if you’ve left appliances on, in order to save power (although this only applies if you’ve got the device hooked up to the device’s ‘network’).

– The device is planned to be open source, so it will continue to evolve along with current technology.

Ninja SpherePretty cool if you ask me, and not too far from the wildest sci-fi dreams. Just think, your character is sitting in their futuristic sitting room, being waited on by the robot we met last week. They feel that the air-conditioner is too strong, the lights too dim and their phone is ringing in the other room. Easy! A wave of your hand and the air-conditioner is turned down, the lights turned up and the phone call gets sent through to the Ninja Sphere (feature not currently available, although I’m sure it will be when they realize what a great idea it is!).

Sure, it may not be great for general health, in terms of getting up and moving around but let’s be fair; your hero has spent the whole day defending Earth from alien invasion, I think she deserves a break!

The main character of my new sci-fi series is bound to have this kind of technology. She deserves it for spending her time kicking alien butt! You can learn more about her here.

What features would you want to see in this kind of technology? How would you use it? What implications does it have for your upcoming fiction work?

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Last week I reviewed another of C.J. Anderson’s book’s; Dawn of Djesus Undead. Anderson is kindly giving away three of his books at the moment, and I took full advantage of the offer.

KlarityKlarity is a science fiction novella based around the development of a new drug which cures Alzheimer’s and autism as well as religious belief. The drug also increases the intelligence of the person taking it. Let’s ignore the scientific improbability of such a magic pill, because the premise is pretty cool.

It’s a good paced book, well formatted and the editing is ok. There are some very obvious overtones so if you are sensitive about your religion I would suggest you not pick this one up.

This book has an obvious agenda but the story itself is also entertaining. Despite it being short I felt that I got to know the characters and their motives and I was involved with the story.

Overall a good quick read, perfect if you’re about to do some travelling and it won’t cost you a cent.

Three stars from me; mostly because I feel that the bigger implications of such a drug could have been explored, taking it out to a full length novel. Also with some re-writing I think the agenda could have been achieved with a bit more finesse.

Thanks C.J. Anderson for a good read.

 

Read more book reviews here.

Read an excerpt from my own up-coming science fiction novel.

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality we’re talking about a new piece of technology which will mean great things for some, and unemployment for others.

The UBR-1 is an advanced robot which will soon be available for just $35,000. It’s extremely modifiable and extremely smart.

The robot is capable of adjusting its height and has a single arm which is capable of a huge range of movement. The hand ends with a grasper which can take hold of any number of objects.

The robot can be programmed to your specifications and even has an off switch to ‘prevent the robot apocalypse’ in case the robots should become self-aware.

I could go on about all its other awesome features but you can find them on the website:

http://unboundedrobotics.com/

UBR-1What I want to talk about is the future implications. I mean aside from the obvious; that supermarket shelf stackers will be ousted from their jobs to be replaced by a cheaper robot alternative. There are lots of other uses for such a robot.

The designers already talk about its capabilities to help disable or aged care people with every day tasks which people often take for granted, like bending down and picking up the TV remote.

But I want to take it even further. Let’s face it, the robot already has a microphone and speakers, so you could technically have a conversation with it with not too much trouble. Ok at this stage the robot is more of a ‘laborbot’ and doesn’t have a ‘personality’ per se, but surely that’s just a matter of time (otherwise, why would you have an apocalypse emergency switch?).

Even in its current form the robot is capable, with some programming of pretty much everything a robot has ever been imagined doing. This robot could do my bidding; ‘fetch me a drink’, ‘lay the table’, ‘massage my feet’. It could make automated deliveries.

In fact, this robot comes with space for extra attachments, so screw on a phaser and BAM you’ve got a robot security guard right there.

So yes, as always with technology there will be some loss of jobs, on the other hand the robot repair industry is about to see a boom. Despite that, I’m super excited to see this technology reach the market and maybe one day when I have $35,000 I’ll get one.

What would you do if you had the UBR-1?

If this robot had the ability to hover it could almost be as cool as CAL, the robot from my up and coming sci-fi series which you can get a sneak-peak of here.

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Dawn of Djesus Undead is the story of God gone mad. A rabid killer Jesus is on the lose sending natural disasters and plagues to Earth. Even the angels are not safe as the bounds of God’s fury know no bounds.

Overall the concept of this book is fantastic; a God with human imperfections is unleashed on the world.

However, I feel that the novel could do with some more polishing. For a fairly short book there were quite a few errors which jarred my reading a little. But, let’s be fair C.J. Anderson is kindly giving this book away for free so I can easily forgive a few typos.

Dawn of Djesus UndeadThe one thing I couldn’t forgive, which significantly brought down my rating of this book (otherwise it could well have been 4 stars) was the character inconsistencies. So a lot of the book is told in the third person with no specific characters, that’s fine. But the rest of it is told from the perspective of one man who used to be in special ops.

On the face of it, an ex-special ops is a great character to choose. However, I found that the man and his partner’s personalities just didn’t make sense. They’re both deeply religious (enough to delay sex until marriage), that is until the ‘apocalypse’ comes, at which point all inhibitions are thrown out of the window. I don’t want to spoil all the saucy details but within the time frame of about 24 hours the main character goes from not wanting to have sex before marriage, to doing a succubus.

There were several other character inconsistencies throughout the book which I found really detracted from my reading experience. It’s a great idea, great concept and I think if it underwent a bit more polishing, with some input from readers it could be a great book.

So, having said all that at this stage Dawn of Djesus Undead gets 2.5 stars, so not bad but not good- just average. However, if you’re someone who doesn’t really care about characters than I encourage you to pick up this book, I think you’ll really enjoy it and at the moment it won’t cost you a cent.

 

Check out C.J. Anderson’s other books here.

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I have a very cool invention which is hot off the press to show you: a 3D pen.

It works in much the same way as a 3D printer except that you use it like you would any other pen. It uses melted plastic which cools to a solid almost as soon as it comes out of the pen.

I highly recommend you watch the videos of it in action, it really is almost like drawing in thin air.

3DoodlerOk, so at the moment you may say that its more of a toy without ‘real world’ applications but I disagree. Sure at the moment you would mostly use it for decorations (but that’s an important part of the ‘real world’ too) but what about the future?

Even now you could build some useful things with such a pen. What do you currently use that’s made of plastic? Need a paper clip? BAM draw your own!

3D Pen But more seriously folks; let’s say you’re trapped in your space ship with nothing but that pen (and several bags of the unmelted plastic which acts as ‘ink’). Need a cup? No problem, just draw one! Need a box to hold something valuable? No problem, just draw one! Need to patch up your space ship so you don’t die? No problem, just draw one!

And that’s just what could be achieved with the technology as it is. What could be achieved with further adaptations? What if the pen was modified so it could use items other than plastic? 3D printers are already being modified to use other ‘inks’ like cells and collagen to build bionic ears.

We already have soldering pens which put out metal much like this, using it to ‘draw on’ wires isn’t really that big a step. Or what about when we eventually get printing food worked out? It’s not a big stretch of the imagination to see putting the ingredients for a pizza into a pen like this and drawing yourself an edible pizza!

What would use this pen for? How would you want it to be adapted for even cooler uses?

The space ship in my science fiction novel has a 3D ‘food generator’ (read it here). How would you use this technology in your writing?

Learn more about this 3D pen here: http://www.the3doodler.com/

 

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So you love Doctor Who. You’ve watched every episode (several times) and now you’re eagerly awaiting the 50th Anniversary special. But what do you do in the meantime? There’s a complete Doctor Who drought!

Sontaran Games Doctor WhoWell, if you’re like me you turn to other platforms, in this case; books. Little did I know that there are many MANY Doctor Who books just waiting to be explored. So then of course came the dilemma, which one to read?

I ended up going with Doctor Who: The Sontaran Games, one of the ‘quick reads’. Now, I was nervous about reading a Doctor Who episode, what if it was nothing compared to the TV series, or what if it changed all the basic rules of the Whovian universe?

Well rest-assured, it did no such thing and I did thoroughly enjoy the book. I’m giving it 4 stars but please read on to find out why.

Firstly, it was well written and perfectly edited, so full points on that front. It only took me just over a half hour to read but that was expected, it’s clearly advertised as a ‘quick read’. Because of it’s length I didn’t get an opportunity to bond with the characters, which would have been a problem if it was any old sci-fi novel, but of course it’s Doctor Who, so I already know who he is, what a TARDIS is and who the Sontaran are.

The story was entertaining and fast-paced with the obligatory twist at the end. Overall it was a good read. I would warn however that if this had been any other science fiction novel, where I wasn’t familiar with the universe the depth of this book wouldn’t be enough. So if you’re not familiar with Doctor Who, and aren’t already a fan then I would recommend you don’t select this book, pick one of the full length novels so you can really get to know what it’s all about.

Doctor WhoOn the other hand, if you are already a hard-core Whovian and need a fix to last until the next episode you’ll enjoy the Sontaran Games. As with the TV series it has some humour which had me giggling out-loud in places. So please go ahead and have a read and be sure to let me know what you thought.

Have you read any other Doctor Who books? Which ones have you enjoyed?

To read a snippet of my work-in-progress science fiction novel go here.

If you’d like to see more book reviews for ideas on what to read this weekend, see the full list here.

 

 

 

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I want to show you something very cool: light-bulbs made of bio-luminescent bacteria.

What is it?

Basically the idea is to have a light ‘bulb’ composed entirely of glowing bacteria. This system would provide light without using any electricity.

The Science:

The science behind this concept is relatively simple. The gene for a glowing protein is inserted into a bacteria (e.g. E. coli) and these form part of an ecosystem contained within the ‘bulb’. This is a self-contained system which recycles its own waste while emitting the glow.

BiobulbThe Future:

With this kind of technology it would be possible to completely replace electrical lights with bacterial ones. These bacteria driven lights wouldn’t require any electricity, making them almost completely waste free. At the moment the production is limited and the glow wouldn’t replace a standard electrical bulb but it’s early days.

It’s even possible to insert these glowing genes into plants and animals. Imagine if streets and parks, and even your home, was lit by the glow of fluorescent plants? While your glow-in-the-dark cat walks down your driveway.

In-fact, imagine a whole world which is lit by the cold glow of luminescent proteins (don’t generate heat). “Have you fed the lights yet dear?” As you go along sprinkling nutrient broth onto the glowing bacteria.

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Personally I’m excited by this field of synthetic biology, the benefits to the environment in terms of power-saving are tremendous but mostly I’m excited about the truly ‘alien’ nature of this technology. In my head I can see a spaceship lit by the glow of bacterial swarms… [Goes back to writing science fiction novel].

What do  you think of these breakthroughs? If you could pick one thing to glow in the dark what would it be (living or inanimate)?

Don’t forget to check out other cases of When Science Fiction Becomes Reality.

You can read more about this project (and see some great pictures) here.

 

Are you an aspiring science fiction author? Are you fan of Dr Who and science fiction? Do you enjoy a little bit of romance thrown into your novels? Then Pippa Jay is just the author for you.

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=04653ce593&view=att&th=141ef2704c3bf63b&attid=0.3&disp=inline&realattid=f6437e342866ffe6_0.3&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-nm288AlEPa9q9OTaj0ai_&sadet=1382735949097&sads=P46UliqbW_hxd5C4V0RYvg6jto8Pippa, tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Pippa Jay, author of science fiction with a romantic soul. I live in Colchester in the East Anglian region of the UK, in Britain’s oldest recorded market town which was burned to the ground in Roman times by Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni tribe. My household includes my husband of twenty years, three red-haired little monsters, a leopard gecko by the name of Yoshi, and six bantam hens – Eowyn, Rush, Kyru, Chiana, Scoop and Tails.

What books have you written?

I have two novels – Keir (science fiction romance) and Gethyon (YA scifi), plus three short stories, one of which is part of a free science fiction romance anthology – Tales from the SFR Brigade. The other two are The Bones of the Sea (free scifi) and Terms & Conditions Apply (hot scifi romance).

Who is the target audience for your books?

Primarily scifi and/or romance fans, ranging from YA to adult. Most of my readers fall into the sfr category.

KeirBriefly describe your books:

Most of my books are a reflection of the scifi series and films that I love best. If you like Doctor Who, then Keir might be the book for you. If it’s Star Wars, then Gethyon. Most of what I write comes under the space opera umbrella, and are action/adventure at heart. Some are quite light on the tech side, but Gethyon is my favourite in terms of technology, mostly because it has spaceships!

 

Is there a particular genre that you prefer to write?

Scifi, without question.

Do you also prefer to read this genre?

Yes, but I’ll read most speculative fiction, with or without romance. I’m not a fan of horror though.

Do you read a lot?

I’m reading less and less published works these days, but I do more beta reading for friends and colleges than I used to. My TBR pile is scarily huge though.

What is your favourite book?

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Gui.

Why?

A tortured hero bordering on the line between good and evil, magic, wonderful world building, and DRAGONS! What’s not to like? Also Ged  has been a big influence on some of my heroes.

How do you write? E.g. pen/computer, do you plan everything out first or just write on the fly?

I do a lot on my smartphone now – while away on holiday in the summer, I did 17K of a novella just on my phone! But it’s mostly straight onto my computer. Nothing is planned. I tried to plot for the couple of times I attempted NaNoWriMo, but didn’t stick to it.

Tales from the SFR BrigadeWhat advice do you have for other authors regarding writing? (e.g. getting over writers block, editing, etc.)

I always quote Galaxy Quest, “Never give up – never surrender!” Persistence is key. Also research. For things like writer’s block – look for inspiration by flicking through a photo stock site like dreamstime.com. Go for a walk or a drive, play some music, watch a film, read. I found one of the best cures is housework. Muse hates it! 😛 In terms of editing, get together a good group of crit partners and beta readers (try CritiqueCircle.com or join writing groups/communities. Or join one of the many weekly blogging rings). Try EditMinion – a free automated piece of editing software – but don’t treat that as the only thing you’ll ever need. It helps, but a good and (at least partially) human editor is far better!

What do you think is the most important thing in science fiction writing?

Get your science right and keep it consistent. That doesn’t mean it has to stick exactly to current theories, although don’t go breaking the laws of physics with long established basics like gravity and momentum. But if you give a plausible explanation for how and why something works, don’t go breaking your own scientific rules. Also don’t rely on things you see in science fiction films. Remember, they’ve been created by Hollywood to look good on the screen, not necessary based on fact like something by NASA!

How do you create your characters?

Usually I start with an action scene in my head, so I’ll have an idea how they look, and how they react in that scene gives me the start of their personality. Names often come with that or soon after.

Who is your favourite character (that you created)? Describe them….

Whichever one features in whatever story I’m working on at the moment! So right now that would be my rogue superhero Nelle, a kind of Art Deco Catwoman/Batman hybrid. Her super strength, speed and invulnerability come from a black second skin that she grows every night, transforming her. She’s arrogant, sassy and conflicted, but she’s determined to bring down the bad guy even while not considering herself one of the good guys either. She’s so much fun.

GethyonHow do you market your books?

Blogging, social networking, and the odd giveaway mostly. I’m active on several social media platforms, although I have to admit Twitter is my favourite. If you ever want to chat, that’s the best place to find me.

Are you happy with how well they sell?

Could always be better! No, I’m surprised to be selling any, being a new author in a niche genre. But I don’t have any marketing skills and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to improve those.

Are you happy with how they’ve been received?

Yes. Overall the feedback has been positive, and generally the negative ones have been down to a reader not connecting to a character rather than down to flaws in my writing. Not much I can do about that, except write a wider range of characters.

What advice do you have for other authors in regards to marketing?

What’s worked best for you? Please don’t spam people with your book! Getting hit by DMs on Twitter, particularly the automated ones, almost demanding that I check out their book/website/FB page is an instant turn off. Also constant tweets to buy the book, with little or no interaction between. Same on Goodreads and Facebook. I’m much more inclined to check out a book or author if I’ve interacted with them first. The whole point of social media for me is the social part. Just using it as free advertising space is not going to work. I would say the best thing is to (and I quote my friend Liana Brooks here) a. Write excellent books, b. Write lots of them, and c. Be visible. That last bit is my own thought.

Terms and Conditions ApplyThe covers of your books are lovely, Did you come up with the ideas/artwork yourself? Was it difficult to get the covers to match what you had in mind?

Thank you! With my debut novel Keir, I had minimal say on the cover, and it was nothing like I expected. But it was a hard one to do when my male MC is a blue-skinned, tattooed guy, and the cover has had plenty of compliments. For Gethyon, I was lucky to be able to request and work with the publisher’s cover designer (Misa Buckley) because I already knew her outside of work. I didn’t get the final say in it, but was able to bounce ideas back and forth, and send her images including a mock draft I made myself. The Bones of the Sea was made by another friend and cover designer (Dani Fine) after she’d read the story, and it matches the elements in the story perfectly. For Terms, again I did my own rough draft first, and Dani did the final polished design.

What is your opinion on Traditional vs. Indie publishing?

I think an author should follow whatever path makes them happy and ignore the nay sayers. Too often people think that it really is a case of one or the other being the only ‘right’ way, and that one has no merit over the other. There’s still a huge bias against indie authors, and I’ve actually seen it getting worse rather than better. For me, I’ve very happy being a mixture of small press and self published. I still harbour a tiny hope of having an agent and a Big 5 deal one day, but I’m content with where I am.

What has been the hardest part about writing?

Time. Writing, researching, editing (and promoting) are all massive time sucks. Tricky when you also have a family, and they have to come first. Right now I consider myself very fortunate to be able to spend the days my kids are at school almost fully devoted to writing.

Where do you see the future of your writing going?

I would love to make a paying career out of this. At the moment it isn’t, but until my youngest goes to secondary school, hubs and I have agreed I can spend that time working toward it. That gives me five years. I also want to explore different subgenres of scifi. I have a decopunk and a cyberpunk I’m working on, both things I’d never thought I’d write.

The Bones of the Sea If you could say anything to your readers, what would it be?

Thank you so much for buying my books and I hope you’ve enjoyed them!

 

Pippa, thank you very much for joining me. Readers if you’d like to know more about Pippa: A girl who writes scifi. Whovian, Scaper, & Sith-in-training. Loves The Rasmus. Published by Lyrical Press Inc. & Champagne Books. 2012 Readers Favorite Finalist, 2013 Aspen Gold finalist, 2013 Gulf Coast RWA Chapter Silken Sands Self-Published Star Award Finalist, The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards semi-finalist, and 2012 SFR Galaxy Award winner.

Then check out her various online presences:

Website: http://www.pippajay.co.uk

Blogs:

Adventures in Scifi http://www.pippajay.blogspot.co.uk

Spacefreighters Lounge http://www.spacefreighters.blogspot.com

Romancing the Genres http://www.romancingthegenres.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pippajaygreen

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5054558.Pippa_Jay

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Pippa-Jay-Adventures-in-Scifi/114058821953752

SFR Brigade: http://www.sfrcontests.blogspot.co.uk/

 

It’s time again for When Science Fiction Becomes Reality.

This one is pretty cool and has tremendous implications for medicine and health. The basis is that a tiny device is implanted into a person. The device is composed of cells which are programmed to respond to certain conditions. So far two types have been presented:

1) Insulin increase implant: This clever little device reacts to blue light and causes increased insulin production.

2) Monitoring implant: This version of the device is programmed to emit a green light when it comes into contact with heavy metals. This provides a kind of ‘warning’ or indication of toxicity.

So far these devices have been used in mice but I’m sure it won’t be long before they roll out human trials.

Diabetes Testing StripsWhat does it mean? In this regard the possibilities are endless, such devices could remove the need for long term injection therapy e.g. targeted cancer therapy and diabetes injections.

They could also be used as a broad spectrum warning system, imagine if they were programmed to detect chemicals related to tumours, or kidney failure, or if they could detect blood deficiencies. The device could be programmed to respond differently depending on the problem, thus giving an early warning and potentially saving millions of lives. If everyone had this kind of portable 24/7 health monitor we would see a major decrease in fatalities due to certain conditions.

Read the study here.

Science Fiction: The world of science fiction needs new and exciting technologies, it’s not enough to just have a spaceship (already got them), or a Mars colony (estimated to happen in 2021), or portable communicators (cell-phones), or genetic manipulation (done it). The science fiction of today must push the boundaries of reality and what we know to be true. Implanted health monitors (with the ability to administer the required medicine) could be just the futuristic technology your sci-fi story needs.

 

Helpful hint: If you’re writing a science fiction novel, find a scientist! It’s possible the technology you invision as super-futuristic has already happened. I know I’ve beta-read manuscripts where I’ve had to point out to the author that the genetic manipulation they have described can already be done.

 

What exciting futuristic technology are you looking forward to?

Would you get a personalised health monitor?

If you enjoy science fiction check out this sneak peak of Volume #1 of the Nova series.

Image thanks to Bodytel at flickr

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I literally had goosebumps the entire way through this book. I read the first one in the series a few months ago and absolutely loved it (see a review of Murder Takes Time here), but I have to say, this was even better.

Murder Has ConsequencesGiammatteo has an incredible talent for weaving in mystery and suspense along with deeply thought out and believable characters. Murder Has Consequences is a phenomenal read, with spine-tingling scenes that had me burning through pages. I finished the whole thing in just two days because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, and now I’m pining away for book 3.

I don’t want to give too much away but suffice to say, there are murders (lots of them), and there are investigations. You get to know the victims, the investigators and even the perpetrators. It’s almost as if you’ve known them your whole life. I found myself screaming in my head “No, no no!”, and it wasn’t because what the characters were doing was unrealistic but because it was so dammed true to life!

Murder Takes TimeI don’t usually read murder mysteries but I will be first in line for the third book in this series. So, 5 stars for this one (and trust me, that almost never happens), the formatting was spot on, I think I noticed 1 typo in the entire book and the storyline was just brilliant. If you’re a fan of murder mystery (or even if you’re not) go and buy Murder Takes Time; you’ll be so sucked in that I won’t even have to encourage you to buy Murder Has Consequences– you will have already done it!

One warning though, it’s not for children or the feint of heart. If you have a weak stomach, maybe these books aren’t for you. They’re murder mysteries, so don’t be shocked when there’s violence. It’s not all and out gore but it is there, told in such a way that a shiver is forced up your spine. So, with that warning in mind go forth and be trapped in Giammateo’s world.

 

See how Giammatteo’s work compares to that of Agatha Christie’s Body in the Library.

If you’d like to know more about this series read an interview with Giacomo Giammatteo.

What mystery books have you read recently? Have you read Giammatteo’s books, what did you think?

 

 

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, I’m excited to touch on a topic that everyone is interested in; mind reading.

So far the idea of mind-reading has been mostly confined to the realms of sorcery, but what if someone could actually look at the activity of your brain and determine your thoughts?

Human BrainResearchers have recently shown (by accident), that a very specific area of the brain lights up when a person thinks in terms of quantity, e.g. ‘more than’. At the time the researchers were analyzing which areas of the brain are involved in certain activities and noticed that this particular area (activated when solving mathematical equations etc.) was also activated when involved in everyday conversations about quantities.

While this may be only a small step in terms of the brain’s entire vocabulary it’s a pretty incredible achievement. The work in this study could lead to more advancements, like the association of other areas of the brain with other thought patterns. Eventually this could be put into almost a ‘brain-wave translation dictionary’, e.g. activity in section C7 means ‘I’m hungry’.

Medically this kind of technology could help people who have been rendered mute or unable to speak e.g. through strokes. Imagine if you have been unable to communicate, and then suddenly people know exactly what you want?

Of course at this stage we can’t go around attaching electrodes to everyone (aside from the ethical issues), it’s not a simple process. The people in this particular study had parts of their skulls removed to allow attachment of the electrodes. However, as we all know, technology is becoming more advanced everyday. How long before such electrodes become a tiny chip which is clipped onto a person’s hair?

Moving even further into the realm of science fiction, this technology could certainly be used for evil as well as good. Just think George Orwell’s 1986- a tiny chip that reads your thoughts and conveys them straight to the ‘overlords’. CCTV’s don’t look so invasive now do they?

And of course a step on from that is the possible follow on to mind-control. Ok, so now we can read brain activity but what if you could influence it? What if you could insert electrodes to stimulate certain regions and cause a person to think about something specific or to think or feel a certain way (fear, anger, aggression, love)? Further down the rabbit hole we go…

 

You can read the original article here.

What do you think of this method of mind-reading? What was the coolest piece of science trivia you heard about this week?

If you’d like to read about more incredible scientific breakthroughs check out past episodes of When Science Fiction Becomes Reality.

And if you’re a fan of science fiction make sure you check out my sneak peak, of the up-and-coming Nova series.

 

 

 

We’ve all thought it; what would I do if the zombie apocalypse happened right now. There are memes flooding social media; e.g. what would your weapon be if you only had time to grab one thing from your desk? The world has definitely fallen into another zombie craze, with Walking Dead and World War Z being just two examples.

Walking DeadBut I want to get serious people. I’ve spent a long time thinking about this (way too long really) and here are 5 steps you can take to survive the zombie apocalypse.

Now I’m going to make a proviso here; while these strategies might help in any old zombie apocalypse they are tailored to a specific type of zombie; the fast-moving, rabid, but not overly intelligent zombie. Think the speed of World War Z zombies with the intelligence of Walking Dead zombies.

Ok, let’s get started, you may want to take notes if you plan on surviving the coming apocalypse:

 

1. Decide on a primary safe-house.

This should be a secure location preferably away from population centers. You should know exactly how you plan on getting there, remembering that roads may be blocked.

 

World War Z2. Supplies.

Where will you get the necessary supplies for the coming apocalypse? Food, fuel, weapons. Is there an army-store near your secure location? A shopping center? A fuel station? Eye them off now, in a zombie outbreak there’s no time to torment yourself with the ethics of stealing fuel from dead people.

 

3. Don’t wonder off alone.

We’ve all seen it. Who wanted to kill Carl (Walking Dead) when he wondered off into the forest on his own? Well then don’t do it! I don’t care if you’ve had an argument with your group, or if you hear a strange noise in the darkness- DON’T GO WONDERING OFF.

 

4. Learn to hunt and survive in the wild.

So, zombies come from people. Therefore there are going to be more zombies where there are more people. So, logic would suggest the best survival method is to go into the middle of the wilderness or desert and wait for all the zombies to starve. Who knows how long that will take??? So, you have to be able to live without provisions in the middle of no-where. I’d start practicing now if I were you.

Warm Bodies

5. Don’t fall in love with a zombie.

Please, please, please, don’t believe what you saw in Warm Bodies, it was all lies. Zombies will not grow feelings and want to protect you- they want to eat you. So, don’t under any circumstances try to save, protect, befriend or fall in love with a zombie!

 

I hope you find these tips useful in the zombie apocalypse! Personally I’ll be getting on a boat and sailing out to the middle of the ocean, maybe find a nice deserted island, and spend the rest of my days fishing in the sunshine. (I’m operating on the premise that zombies can’t swim).

And if you like zombies, be sure to check out the short story by Michael Cairns, it’s a fantastic read.

Did I miss anything? What would you do in a zombie apocalypse? What’s your safe-house like?

 

Today in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I have a fun list to share; major science fiction technologies which have since been created. That is, how our world now is the ‘science fiction’ setting of past decades.

Star Trek1.    Jules Verne predicted the moon landing in incredible detail (including the weightlessness of the astronauts) 100 years before the Apollo mission.

2.   Again Jules Verne conceived the submarine. In fact, it’s often thought that it was his imaginative idea that sparked research into the possibility of deep sea exploration in the first place!

3.   Mark Twain, in a little-known story; From the ‘London Times’ of 1904,  predicted the internet. That’s right, he dreamed up the ‘telectroscope’ which used the phone system to allow information sharing in 1898!!.

4.   H.G. Wells predicted the Atomic Bomb in 1914. He even predicted the danger of radioactive fallout.

5.   Hugo Gernsback predicted radar (and roughly how it would work) about 20 years before it was invented.

6.   In 1968 Arthur C. Clarke and his 2001: A Space Odyssey described the iPad (in his case called the ‘newspad’).

7.   Who knows who first came up with the idea for a flying car but the hover-car has certainly been a staple in many science fiction stories. Now we have them in a variety of forms.

8.   The Star Trek communicator devices are eerily similar to modern day flip-phones.

9.   In 1920 Karel Apek’s play Rossum’s Universal Robots introduced robots for the first time and the name has stuck.

10.   In 1888 Edward Bellamy predicted the elimination of money due to plastic cards loaded with credit. That’s right, 100 years before the first credit card Bellamy’s novel Looking Backward predicted their existence.

 

Isn’t it incredible how far we’ve come? What science fiction items will become science facts in the near future? What predictions do you have for new technology? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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Last week I had the pleasure of reading The Eden Project, a science fiction novel which I found quite enjoyable.

The Eden ProjectThe premise is that something has happened to Earth, sending the human race hurtling towards extinction. In an effort to prevent this a group of forward thinking scientists have set up ‘the dome’. Inside 117 children are born and raised completely separate from the rest of human kind.

This first book in the series is an excellent introduction to this frightening new world and the characters who inhabit it.

The Eden Project manages to combine romance, science fiction and the zombie apocalypse into one satisfying read.

As always there are aspects that could have been improved; the characters occasionally said or did things which I felt was quite at odds with their normal selves. These character inconsistencies were a bit jarring but not bad enough to make me put down the book.

Night Without EndThe Eden Project is focused more on the characters and their relationships rather than the threat to humanity or the actual ‘science fiction’ aspects. So don’t expect to find an alien sucking off someone’s face on the first page.

Spelling, formatting and grammar were all pretty spot on and I didn’t notice any major errors which brought down the book.

So, 4 stars for The Eden Project, a good, light, science fiction novel and highly recommended.

If you enjoy science fiction check out my work in progress novel here.

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality there are two great discoveries I want to share.

Memory Removal– Scientists have been able to remove selected memories from mice and rats.

So the possibility of ‘brain wipes’ isn’t that far off at all. (Although of course this study was done for the medical benefits to addicts and PTSD sufferers).

Medically – In medical terms the ability to ‘delete’ certain memories while leaving others unaffected could mean significant improvements to the quality of life of many people. Those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or recovering addicts, both of whom may have memories which are best forgotten could benefit from such treatment.

Other Applications- Aside from the medical implications the ability to ‘delete’ or ‘edit’ someone’s memories could have many other consequences. Reconditioning a population, for example, to change their beliefs, or editing a witness’s memory so that they can’t recall the event. What if someone wanted to forget their life completely? Could you offer it as a kind of ‘cosmetic intervention’?

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.07.036

Space

10 Black holes found– ‘NuStar’ a new black-hole hunter craft has discovered 10 supermassive black holes.

These particular black holes were unidentified previously on lower powered equipment but with NuStar they stand out. With the technology to now easily identify these monstrosities- what else might we learn about the several decade long mystery of black holes?

Are they vortexes to another dimension?

Are they a means of time travel?

Are they just a centre of extreme gravity where your body would simply collapse in on itself?

Personally I’m looking forward to finding out what these enigmas really are. And, with technology advancing as quickly as it is hopefully we won’t have to wait too long!

http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/773/2/125

 

Reading up on real science is a great way to improve your science fiction writing. How can you predict what might be possible in 100 or 1000 years if you don’t know what’s possible now?

For a taste of my in-progress sci-fi novel, go here.

Today in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I’m not going to break down just one incredible story for you; today I’m giving you a whole list!

 

Researcher’s grow teeth from urine – Not many sci-fi applications, but still pretty cool!

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/07/31/3814782.htm

 

Mars is phosphate rich – Mars has more of the essential building block of life; phosphate, than Earth does! Imagine what other planets further out hold?

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/09/02/3837761.htm

The Atlantis Gene

Freeze dried sperm are the way of the future – So we run a few species into extinction… no problem! We’ll just breakout the freeze-dried sperm! … Not to mention populating far away planets with new animal life.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/08/29/3836646.htm

 

 

 

Another sun, just like ours – Could this star host planets capable of producing life?

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/352866/description/The_suns_older_twin_250_light-years_away

http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1337/eso1337a.pdf

 

Tiny brain-like organ grown in a lab – A little scary, sure, but think of the medical research applications! This advancement could give invaluable insight into neurological conditions.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/352830/description/Tiny_human_almost-brains_made_in_lab

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12517

 

If you enjoy science and science fiction, you might like my sci-fi sneak peak, or this fantastic zombie short story by Michael Cairns.

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So I’m currently drafting a murder mystery as the second installment of my up and coming sci-fi series (read a snippet of book 1 here) and thought I’d better do some reading in the genre. Where better to start than with Agatha Christie herself? So after trawling through blogs and reviews I settled on The Body in the Library and got stuck straight in.Body in the Library

As you’d expect, the writing style isn’t what you’d find in a contemporary novel, the dialogue etc. just isn’t what you’d find in a modern book but that didn’t detract from the story at all. I had expected the whole book to be written from the sleuth’s point of view (Miss Marple), but actually very little of it was seen through her eyes. Instead we are fed small clues through the eyes of a variety of other characters.

I read this book as more of a study guide than for entertainment so I was taking notes on everything that was said, every clue, every connection and I managed to get it down to two possible scenarios (one of which was right) a little before Miss Marple came to the same conclusion.

But enough about me. The book itself is well written (like you’d expect anything less) and the mystery was perfect. The book didn’t rely on gore to carry you along. It was just a very interesting read that lead you through the clues, and I was eager to follow. The clues were well placed and definitely had me thinking.

So, not that Agatha Christie needs a review from little me, I’m giving it anyway. 4.5 stars for The Body in the Library, it was a good read, good style, good mystery. The only thing I’d ask more of is of the sleuth herself! I wanted to get inside Miss Marple’s head but the reader is actually kept at quite a distance.

So if you feel like a light Sunday murder mystery, The Body in the Library should be just right!

Here it is ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Today The Herald of Darkness was officially released for your enjoyment. So, don’t waste another second, head over to Amazon and grab your copy now!

Herald of Darkness

I am the one who walks the night,

I am the heart that sees no light,

I am the crow upon the carcass,

I am the bringer, the herald of darkness.

Like the calm before the storm the Draconum are thrust from their peaceful oasis into a vicious war. Refugees flood the shores in a desperate attempt to escape the coming darkness and the death it carries.

Allies become enemies and trust becomes a thing of the past. Laila and Sarin must wrestle to maintain control as racial tension and disputes threaten to tear apart their command.

The dragons struggle in a strange new land and no place is safe as they very shadows reach for their throats. What is it about their past that comes back to haunt them?

Astrocytes tries to contain an army which is bent on its own destruction. But how can you find the light in a world consumed by darkness??

The clouds are gathering and no-one can outrun them…

Today’s interview can also be read at http://masqueradecrew.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/indie-interview-with-giacomo-giammatteo.html#more

Meet a mystery master; Giacomo Giammatteo, a.k.a. Jim and hear what he has to say about his writing style and the advice he has for new authors.

I have had the pleasure of reading one of Jim’s books; Murder Takes Time (review here) and thoroughly enjoyed it, so you can imagine how excited I was to have the opportunity to interview him.

Dear Jim thank you very much for agreeing to participate in the Indie Author Spotlight.

 

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

GG: I got started late in life, when my youngest son was a teenager. He had been an avid reader until 8th grade when the school began mandatory reading of certain books. To keep him from losing interest in reading altogether, I bought some fantasy books and we began reading them together and then discussing plots, characters, etc. Soon we carried this further, to the crazy notion that we could write a book, so we plotted out a series of epic fantasies, and started writing. But then he discovered girls, who were far more interesting than fantasy books, and that left me alone. I put the idea on the shelf for years, but then got the bug and began writing. I haven’t stopped since.

 

Murder Takes TimeYour book Murder Takes Time is doing exceptionally well, was this your first book? If not, what was your first published book and did it do well?

GG: The first book I wrote was the fantasy I mentioned above, but I haven’t published it. I have three of the four books done in the fantasy series. When I finish the fourth, I’ll publish them. I like to make sure things all fit into place before I publish.

 

Tell us a little bit about Murder Takes Time…

GG: Murder Takes Time is my…baby. I grew up on those streets mentioned in the book, and a lot of the trouble the kids got into really happened. Even the roach races were real. (There is a picture of the original sign we used to advertise on my website.) It came about because my kids kept insisting I write a story about my time growing up, but I couldn’t figure out how to tell it. Then I came up with MTT.

 

How does this book differ from other mystery novels?

GG: I think it differs in a lot of ways. First, the entire premise is different. People call it a mob story, and a mystery, and so on, but it’s not really that. It’s a story about three kids and the friendship they had. It’s about life and how people get torn apart by things that happen in their lives. Most of all it’s about friendship and honor–old school codes by some standards—and how that can affect a person’s life.

So instead of starting with a mystery, I started with three boys and their code of honor and built a mystery around them. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to use something one of the Amazon reviewers said. I wish I’d have thought of this myself:

  • This novel is not just a murder mystery.
  • This novel is not just a thriller.
  • This novel is not just a love story.
  • This novel is not just a life story.
  • This novel is all in one. OBI Amazon reviewer

 

You have achieved what many indie authors dream of- how did your success come about?

GG: It’s difficult to say what success is, or isn’t. I certainly haven’t achieved “success” in terms of sales, but I have in my own mind by the reception I’ve gotten for my books. The readers seem to enjoy them and that matters the most to me. In fact, the best measure of success for me was when I went to the genre I’m in on Amazon—hard-boiled crime fiction—and I sorted by Average Customer Review. Out of @ 4500 books, my three books were rated # 1, 2, and 3. That made my day when I saw that. It was far better than sales, although my wife might disagree with that.

 

Do you have any special tips that you’d like to share with other authors, regarding writing, marketing or publishing?

GG: I’m not big on giving advice because everyone has to do what they feel is right, but there are a few universal truths to writing, IMO. If I were forced to name three, it would be these: make all your characters real, not just the primary ones; learn to be a storyteller; ignore most rules of writing and write what you feel in your heart.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?

GG: Thanks! And I mean that. Readers are fantastic. When I get a letter from a reader telling me they liked the book, it makes my day. If there is one thing I’d like to let them know it’s that (IMO) most writers don’t do this for money; they write to share their stories and, hopefully, have them enjoyed.

 

Why did you choose to write in the mystery genre?

GG: I first published in the mystery genre, but I actually write in several genres, including Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Non-Fiction, and have even started dabbling in children’s books.

 

Do you also read? What sort of books?

GG: I used to read every night. Lately I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time. When I do read it’s a wide range: mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, history, military history, biographies, business.

 

How did you learn to write?

GG: By reading.

 

What are your thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

GG: I could probably go on forever about this. They both have their place, but I think in the long run big, traditional publishing is in for a rough ride—unless they change. The biggest obstacle all writers face is visibility, even traditionally published writers have this problem, unless they happen to be one of the lucky few who get the big budgets for advertising. The second biggest obstacle is getting into physical bookstores. Most of them won’t take an indie, which is almost unbelievable nowadays, but it’s still the norm. That obstacle will soon fall though, and when it does it will open up a huge new area of opportunity for the self-published authors.

 

Do you have any more books being released soon?

GG: I have five books out now, although two were just released. Murder Takes Time, and its sequel, which is Murder Has Consequences. There will be six books in this series, each one following the “rules of murder” mentioned in book one. Book three Murder Takes Patience should be out in the spring.

I also have A Bullet For Carlos out, which is the first in another series, Blood Flows South. And I have just released a novella about one of the secondary characters in that book. The sequel, A Bullet From Dominic, will be out either late this year or early next year.

I also have my first non-fiction book out, No Mistakes Resumes, and it is the first in a new series. The second book No Mistakes Interviews will be out late this year.

I have another new series, Redemption, starting with a release in September of Old Wounds.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your books?

GG: As to myself, I’ve been married to my “Angela” for 44 years, since we were 17. (If you read MTT you’ll know what that means.) I never graduated high school because I got married and was supporting a family. My wife and I have an animal sanctuary where we care for abused and abandoned animals; we have 45 at present.

As to the books, I am passionate about writing and delivering the best books I can to readers. I do everything to ensure there are no mistakes. I even guarantee my books. If you buy a book and don’t like it, all you have to do is write me and tell me what you didn’t like and I’ll give you another one free, or, if you don’t want that, I’ll refund the money. This applies to digital books only. And your reason can’t be because of violence or language, because I tell everyone up front the books have that. I have this stated on my website. The guarantee does not apply to my non-fiction books.

Thanks,

Giacomo Giammatteo

You can learn more about Giacomo and his books here:

http://giacomogiammatteo.com

http://nomistakes.org

Murder Takes Time is available through Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/MURDER-TAKES-Friendship-Honor-ebook/dp/B007UNJJYI/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I have the pleasure of talking to Mia Darien, author of the Adelheid series. She is a rising indie author who isn’t afraid to write what she enjoys. She is also keen to talk to her readers and has some good advice for authors.

 

Dear Mia thank you very much for joining me.

Thanks for having me!Mia Darien

 

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

I started writing when I was fourteen, which I’ll admit was about fifteen years ago. I’ve been writing in some form or another ever since. How did I get started? Oh, dear… I don’t know that I remember! I just loved reading, have since I was three, and I guess I wanted to try to write stories like I’d been reading. Though there is some evidence of little stories I tried writing when I was six or seven. So maybe it started even earlier!

 

Your Adelheid series seems to be well-liked… Tell us a little bit about the series…

I hope it’s well liked! It seems to be pretty well received, yeah. The original idea actually started when I was around sixteen, which is when my reading shifted from epic fantasy to paranormal, like Anne Rice and P. N. Elrod and Laurell K. Hamilton. I really liked the styles of the latter two, and I loved all the vampires and werewolves.

 The basic idea was always that there was a law passed that made preternatural creatures into legal citizens, stemming a little from inspiration from Hamilton’s work though I go in a fairly different direction. It’s changed a lot from where it started, but my goal was always to look at paranormal beings like they’re human, just a little extra. That they have everyday issues, and then not so everyday issues.Mia Darien

 Each book has a different narrator, even though they’re all written in First Person Sarcastic. There are generally mystery angles, though the tenor of each angle changes with the narrator, but it’s all tied in by the city it takes place in: Adelheid, CT.

 

How does this series differ from other fantasy/Fiction novels?

That’s a very hard question to answer, since I haven’t read them all! *lol* I think that the multiple narrators gives a different feeling to the series on the whole, and gives different in-depth perspectives to the characters and city, and the focus on the “rights” issue for them. Such as looking at the anti-preternatural groups that have risen, even going so far as attacking them, and the fight they have to keep the legal rights granted to them.

 

You have achieved what many indie fantasy authors dream of- how did your success come about?

Well, I’m still working on it, I think! But it’s really just persistence. I’ve had a lot of bumps in trying to learn my way, and I’m still learning, but just being stubborn in not giving up can go a long way.

 

Do you have any special tips that you’d like to share with other authors, regarding writing, marketing or publishing?

Write what you enjoy, because then you’ll never get tired of it. Don’t be afraid to do what you think is best for your story and your characters, let them live their lives. Publishing… Do your homework, and know what you’re doing. Follow instructions! Marketing is the area I’m still working on learning myself. But again, be smart and be stubborn.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?

Continue to read and enjoy my books? *lol* Seriously, though, that’s as much as I ever want. I want people to enjoy my stories, because I write to entertain. I’m not writing high drama or moral message tales. They have their place, but it’s just not what I aim for. I want people to read my stuff and set the book aside and say, “That’s was fun!”

 Also, I love to hear from people who read my stuff, so never hesitate to get in touch with me. I like to hear if a reader has an idea or a request, even, and I’ll try to accommodate. There is a collaboration that is possible between a writer and their readers when communication is open, and that’s a lot of fun for me.

 

Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre?

I don’t think that I did, really. It chose me. I just gravitated towards it, but I write in all sorts of fantasy sub-genres, so I really think I enjoy the flexibility and diversity of it.

 

Do you also read? What sort of books?

I love to read! I always have. I don’t know that you can write without being a reader, too. I go through spells where I don’t, but it’s only because too many other things are drawing my focus. I read all kinds of things, though generally all speculative, or “genre,” fiction: fantasy (epic or paranormal), sci-fi, horror, thriller, mystery, romance (though usually when mixed with something else), apocalyptic… If it looks interesting to me, I’ll read pretty much anything. A good smattering of 19th century British literature, too.

 

How did you learn to write?

No idea… I just started writing. I guess I learned just by reading a lot of great authors and great books, including a lot of classics. I was home-educated in middle school and high school by a mother with an English degree, so I’m sure that contributed a lot to it.

 

What are your thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

They both have their pros and their cons. I don’t think one is really any better or any worse than the other. I think that every writer has to choose what works best for them and then pursue it. I tried pursuing traditional publishing for a while, but then I sat down and thought it through and decided that with the wealth of self-publishing options today, it would be the best choice for me and I think it has been. But every writer and every book is different, and needs to have its own choice made.

 

Do you have any more books being released soon?

The fourth book in my Adelheid series, “Written All Over Her,” has just been released. I have other books being written, in various stages, though nothing else in the works for immediate release.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your books?

Nothing more than what I said earlier, which is that I hope people keep reading my stuff and enjoying it, and telling their friends! But more than that, I just like to hear that people are reading, because reading is important.

 

Thank you Mia! If you’d like to learn more about Mia check out her blog:

http://www.miadarien.com/

 

And if you’d like to get your hands on the Adelheid Series, check them out:

www.amazon.com/Mia-Darien/e/B006VVHJVA/?tag=wwwsaffronbry-20

 

Not that long ago the only computers around were large, bulky and altogether unwieldy. Since then technology has gotten smaller, smarter and more user-friendly.

Today in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, we’re looking at the latest in computer advancements; the e-skin. This feather-light technology is thinner than a piece of hair and weighs just 3 grams per meter. Despite its miniscule nature this tiny technological wonder contains pressure, temperature and optical sensors.

Idea

Medical

The medical implications of this technology are obvious; no more difficult cables or patches, not more thermometers. Just stick a patch of e-skin on and it can keep track of all your vitals. With today’s wireless technology it would be easy for these values to be transmitted to a visible screen, or for some kind of alarm to sound if values fell outside of the normal range.

 

Science Fiction

Even in its current form the e-skin is pretty out of this world but what could it lead to?

As a piece of spy equipment this kind of device would be invaluable. You could stick it onto a wall where it would be all but invisible and from there it could record sound, images, anything.

Everyone could wear one and it would warn of impending medical emergencies, such as seizures or heart attacks, giving people valuable seconds to get the help they need.

Aside from these applications, just think of the benefits of having such a powerful computer contained to the size of a segment of cling-wrap!

 

What other applications can you think of for the e-skin? How would you use it? Do you have any other cool science news? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Also, check out a sneak preview for my new sci-fi series here.

To read the published article go here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12314

Today I’m lucky to be hosting Michael Cairns as part of his blog tour.

Michael CairnsChocoholic Michael Cairns is a writer and author of the real-world epic fantasy trilogy, The Assembly and science fiction adventure series, A Game of War. A musician, father and school teacher, when not writing he can be found behind his drum kit, tucking into his chocolate stash or trying, and usually failing, to outwit his young daughter.

I’m very excited to present to you today Michael’s short story; Running’s Easy When You Don’t Feel Pain. I have to say this short story was thoroughly entertaining and you’ll be glad you took the time to read it (especially if you’re a zombie fan).

The Spirit Room

If you like Michael’s writing (and who wouldn’t?), you can get a free novella from his website (as well as lots of other cool stuff) and his books are available from Amazon and Smashwords.

Take it away Michael…

Running’s Easy When You Don’t Feel Pain

By Michael Cairns

There was no pleasure in it, not anymore. The cheers tasted like ashes, the sound of the crowd, noise in her ears. She was blushing when she crossed the finish line, her face burning as the cameras clicked and the flash bulbs painted her in white fluorescent. She had her hands above her head, the smile painted on, but when they thrust the flag in her hands, she shook her head, and passed it back. As much as she hated herself, she hadn’t sunk that low, not yet.

The press conference was just as hard, silver and bronze stood either side of her, chests heaving as they recovered. She had to remember to breath. It was getting harder, like she was forgetting what it felt like, how everything worked.

“Sally, you’ve just secured your fourth gold in a row, across three competitions, making you the undisputed champion at the eight hundred metres. How do you feel?”

Cold? Alone? Bored?

“I feel amazing, Jeff, just fantastic, thanks. Can I thank all of my fans for coming out, and supporting and giving me so much love, it really is what keeps me going!”

She made sure to put the exclamation point in, smiling as she did so. She thought that was better than the truth, although, the girl from last night was definitely keeping her going. Her frontal lobes had been particularly juicy.

“What’s next for you? The Olympics are a couple of years away, are you thinking about them yet?”

Two years? If she was still doing this then, she would have gone entirely mad, just lost it, surely?

“I’m not sure, Jeff, I’m just taking one thing at a time at the moment. It’s all been so quick and so much, I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground.”

(and my teeth to myself).

She backed out of the press conference huddle, nipped away from the track, and into the blessed darkness of the tunnel. She grabbed her sunglasses and slipped them on as she entered the neon hell of the changing rooms. A few minutes later and she was out, slipping into her Porsche and motoring away. Driving was still good. Driving was about as fun as it got, as long as she went fast enough, though that was getting harder every day.

The house was dark and welcoming, the air con turned up full. She went to the fridge first, grabbing the nearest jar and swallowing the contents. She would never get used to the combination; the craving and the loathing that accompanied every meal. It was like having really great sex with someone you found utterly repulsive, impossible, yet still, somehow, happening.

Then into the shower, to wash off the makeup. It peeled away in chunks, taking bits of her with it, until the tray was filled with pale lumps of fake skin mixed in with gobbets of real blood. She examined herself in the mirror, a frank appraisal that pulled no punches. She was gonna have to start spending a lot more on makeup. Most of her cheeks were gone now, just tired threads of flesh stretched taut across her bones. One ear had finally sloughed off under the hot water, along with the skin on one shoulder. She wasn’t too fussed from the neck down, she could hide that with clothing, but she was gonna need a wig soon, and quite possibly a new nose.

She slumped in the sofa and flicked on ‘Walking Dead’, playing her favourite game of ‘spot the real ones’. It was heartening to know she wasn’t the only one trying to maintain a normal life. Not that being a world-champion middle distance runner was all that normal, but then TV extras were a pretty strange lot too.

When the next race meet came, she knew it was her last. It wasn’t just about the lack of thrill, the loss of belief in the fairness of racing people who actually felt pain, and got tired, and created lactic acid. No, it was more than that. Her face was falling off, and no amount of makeup could hide it.

She was running in a novelty hat, one of those nasty tartan things with the big ginger hair hanging down. She was raising money for charity, which seemed to be all the excuse one needed to dress up and act unusual. The make up was caked on super thick, and she was just relieved that it wasn’t too hot.

As she stood on the start line, glancing across at the other competitors, she saw something that made her blood run hot, or least pump a little. Third in from the end was clearly in the early stages. It could be the slightly vacant look, or maybe the flaky skin, but what really gave it away was the smear of blood on the lips, and the growling. The girls either side of her were as far away as their lanes would allow them, the one this side nearly touching her.

The blood was surprising, but maybe she hadn’t watched the right movies. When Sally had realised what was happening to her, she gemmed up pretty quick, and looked for the angle, how best to live with the ‘new her’. It appeared this girl had found the same idea, but not bothered with all the boring ‘keeping it a secret’ stuff. She found herself torn. She wanted to win, and here was an opponent she would actually have to try against, but she really couldn’t put too much strain on her body right now. Her limbs felt pretty solid, but her mate on twitter had lost an arm the other day when she was gardening, and that was sedate compared to this.

The starters orders came and she hunkered down, the butterflies doing laps of her stomach, one of the few things that had stayed the same since the change. Then the gun went and she was off, everything else fading to just her and the track. It had always been like this, and at these times, it didn’t matter that she was a zombie, that her life was measured in months and weeks, or even that she had left part of her little finger back at the start line. All that mattered was the rhythm, the flow of her body in perfect movement.

They had done two laps when she became aware of the screaming, first right next to her, then from the crowd around the stadium. She kept running, refusing to be put off, then heard her name being called and people surrounding her. They were, she realised with a laugh, protecting her. She pushed through the crush and saw the new girl, crouched over another of the competitors, her teeth and mouth covered in the poor runner’s blood, the skin and flesh of her shoulder caught in her mouth.

As they stood and watched, stunned beyond reaction, the new girl dipped her head again and came back up with a chunk of thigh. The squirting blood galvanised the watchers and they dived in, grabbing her and pinning her to the ground. The victim was screaming, high-pitched and helpless as the medics crowded round. Sally slipped quietly back and away, then down the tunnel and out of the stadium. Home was further this time, a full night’s driving, but that was OK. It hadn’t been the retirement race she’d been dreaming of, but it was, at least, an interesting way to finish her career.

She was hungry. Hopefully there’d be a hitch hiker or two on the way home.

Hello readers.

Today I have a very special treat to brighten up your weekends; a taste test of my novel-in-progress. It is a bit of a change from fantasy into sci-fi and I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions- I always welcome constructive feedback. And, if you like the story let me know and you may be selected as a Beta-reader for the full book!

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Nova smashed the wrench down onto the metal desk once more and cursed under her breath. She dove back under the control board and began tightening bolts and rearranging wires. The small room filled with smoke as it hissed out from between the cracks in the control panel.

Nova’s blonde hair was pulled away from her face with a simple band. The one blue streak of hair glowed in the flashing orange light filling the command centre. Her legs poked out from under the command desk, encased in their customary black jeans and knee-high black boots.

“Arg! Why can’t you work for just five minutes?” Nova called out as an alarm began to sound and she worked even more furiously through the steam.

“If you had replaced the wires a month ago when I informed you their condition was poor we would not be having this problem,” said an exasperated voice.

Nova pushed herself out from under the metal desk for enough time to cast a glare at the metallic orb that hovered a little way back from the dashboard. The robot was round, about the size of a football with a digital eye that swivelled down to stare back at her. C4L or ‘Cal’ as Nova liked to call him continued to hover and stare at her with his dammed single eye.

Nova sighed in frustration and returned to her work. She was desperately tightening valves as they became lose while at the same time trying to find the source of the original leak.

“The ship’s maintenance log says the 5th input fuse has blown,” Cal said from his position, now even further away from the rattling, hissing set of controls which was the command unit. He wasn’t going to risk his metal casing if the main controls decided to explode.

“Got it!” Nova yelled as she pulled out the offending fuse and replaced it. The control board continued to shake and blow steam for several moments but then began to cool down. Nova breathed a sigh of relief and let her head fall to the metal floor of the ship. She wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand and pushed herself out from under the control board.

Nova pulled herself up and sat into the chair which folded out from the adjoining wall. She allowed herself to collapse down in it and brought her feet up onto the control board. The flashing orange lights had disappeared and the wailing alarm had stopped. Now before her were the many buttons and controls which guided her ship, The Crusader. In the very centre of the control panel was an old-style wheel which could be used to control the ship’s movements instead of the ever-present autopilot. The wheel could be turned left and right but unlike the original boats on which the design was based, this control could be pushed forward or back to lift or lower the spacecraft.

Above the metal control panel with its many buttons was the front window which currently looked out over the black panorama of space. Distant stars twinkled through the night but all around there was quiet. The window also functioned as a screen which could be used in communication, navigation or surfing the cloud.

With her legs still on the control panel Nova turned slightly and called over her shoulder, “Cal! You can stop hiding, it’s fixed.”

The robot hovered into view and came to a stop just in-front of Nova.

“I wasn’t hiding,” the voice emanated from invisible speakers, “I was taking inventory in the storage room.”

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