Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Tag

Monday’s Friend: Stan Hampton

Today I am pleased to have as my guest once more Stan Hampton, Sr. Welcome back, Stan!

SJT: You’ve visited my blog many times, and each time you do, you’ve got a new adventure in your life to tell us about. The most recent one has you gadding about France. What’s that all about?

SH: Well, I need a foreign language for my Bachelors (double major of Art with Sculpture Emphasis and English with Creative Writing Emphasis). The last time I took a foreign language, French, some 16 years ago, it was not pretty. Perfect time for “ugly crying.” This time, courtesy of International Programs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and the Universities Study Abroad Consortium, University of Nevada-Reno, I figured I’d study French in France. Immersion, so to speak. Aaand, yeah, the exams were on 7 April, I don’t know the results yet, but it’s probably time for some “ugly crying.”

After Lunch, Les Voutes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

SJT: What have been the highlights of your trip?

SH: Fulfilling nearly life-long dreams. Visiting the French Foreign Legion Museum in Aubagne; visiting the Roman aqueduct Pont-du-Gard, and touching the very stones that real people handled some 2,000 years ago; visiting the Camargue, which is a setting I’ve planned on using in one of my novels; staying in wonderful bed and breakfasts in the old cities of Arles and Carcassone, as well as one in the village of Vers-Pont-du-Gard; seeing the Mediterranean Sea, and visiting the tragic ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane.

SJT: You’ve led a very eventful life. What would you say your life philosophy is?

SH: I’ve always believed in “Live and let live,” sort of, but I was also very judgmental. During a bitter divorce I learned what it was like to be judged, and it’s not a good feeling. In recent years, especially this past spring, there’s also a guiding sense of gratitude. If I remember correctly, in the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “There are far more sunrises behind me than ahead of me.” I served with Soldiers who were killed in the Iraq War and others have died after we returned home, including suicide. I learned very recently of a fellow art student, a young woman, who passed away. How much time do we really have in this world? It has been on my mind since I arrived in France, how many people my age are full time university students studying in a foreign country? I’d guess not many. So, every day I feel gratitude for an opportunity like this, and for meeting the Americans and French that I have met here.

SJT: Your fiction is as varied as your life, and you are not constrained by genre. I understand the new novel is described as horror-SF. Can you tell us about it?

SH: Wellll, it takes place in the future. Imagine escaping from a world being destroyed by a global pandemic, only to discover that your escape is more akin to the legend of the Flying Dutchman.

SJT: When will it be available?

SH: MONOLOGUE will be available on 25 April 2017 from Melange Books LLC.

SJT: Where did the idea for this story come from?

SH: To tell the truth, I don’t remember. But in a sense, my guiding light when writing something like this has always been Rod Sirling and The Twilight Zone. I was hooked on that show the first time I saw it, and I still watch it, especially during the New Year’s Eve marathons.

SJT: Your busy life doesn’t get in the way of your writing, and you seem to be quite prolific. What are you working on now, writing-wise?

SH: Well, I’m editing/revising an erotic romance story, Three Little Words. Beyond that, I’m not sure. There are other stories I need to take another look at and probably doing a little rewriting, such as another erotic romance, horror, and science fiction. I might even have another go at Native American steampunk.

Blurb from MONOLOGUE

You can run, but what if you find yourself aboard a space faring Flying Dutchman?

Luther Raynor is a son of one of the world’s wealthiest and politically influential families. When the Etava Virus appeared and spread across the world, mankind’s very survival was in question. Luther used his family’s wealth to construct a sleeper spacecraft to take the family into space, to orbit in safety around Jupiter for a thousand years while in suspended animation. At the last minute he changes the plan after calculating that upon awakening, survival supplies for one would last far longer than for two dozen or more people. He flees into space alone except for the Mobile Artificial Intelligence Image—May, responsible for operation of the spacecraft. But, Luther had no idea of what awaited him out there.

AUTHOR BIO:

Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a published author, photographer and photojournalist. He retired in 2013 from the Nevada Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army, and the Army Individual Ready Reserve (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War). He enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom, with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a multi-media exhibit. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. He has been studying at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with in a double major in Art and English. He recently returned from spending a cold, rainy Spring 2017 semester studying at a university in southwestern France in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains.

After 16 years of desert in the American Southwest, and Southwest Asia, he still misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

Hampton can be found at:

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sharing-rachel-ss-hampton-sr/1120349766?ean=2940046334791

Dark Opus Press: https://www.createspace.com/3685965

Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing: http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/dansemacabre/dansemacabre.html

Melange Books: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/sshampton/index.html

MuseItUp Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museitup/mainstream/better-than-a-rabbit-s-foot-detail

Amazon.com Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/SS-Hampton-Sr/e/B00BJ9EVKQ

Amazon.co.UK Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/SS-Hampton-Sr/e/B00BJ9EVKQ

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6888342.S_S_Hampton_Sr_

Childhood Hero

One of my favourite TV shows as a kid was ‘The Bionic Woman’ starring Lindsay Wagner. Jaime Sommers was my hero. She was smart, she was resourceful, she was super-strong, and she generally managed to rescue herself without any help from the men, because if she got locked up somewhere she could just punch her way out. I remember bounding around the play ground in slow motion pretending to be the bionic woman – because in the show (for some reason) whenever super-fast bionic running happened, it was done in slow motion.

I had the bionic woman action figure as a kid. It was one of my favourite toys, and it came with a bag of cool accessories – a wallet full of dollar bills; maps; mission instructions; make-up. All doll-size. When I played with my Jaime Sommers doll I made her jump over the sofa, making that clicking noise that generally indicated she was using her bionic powers.

My husband bought me the box set of The ‘Bionic Woman’ on DVD for Christmas last year, and it features all three complete seasons, plus the four episodes she originally appeared in from ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’. Her first appearance was in a two-part series. She was Steve Austin’s fiancee and a tennis pro, then she gets seriously injured in a skydiving accident, and Steve convinces Oscar Goldman to shell out the millions of dollars needed to bionically rebuild her. All goes well at first, but Jaime’s body rejects the bionics and she dies at the end of the second episode. But when ratings are high enough TV deaths are always reversible, and Jaime Sommers proved so popular, she was brought back from the brink of death and a second two-part episode in ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ has Steve discover that Jaime is still alive. But alas – she’s lost her memory and doesn’t remember being in love with him.

And so from there spun a separate series that ran for three seasons, and I’ve been working my way through them chronologically. There are few things I’ve noticed about watching a show for the second time 40 years later.

Firstly: I watched every episode as a kid, but as young as I was at the time, I enjoyed the action, but I didn’t follow every nuance of the story line. I am re-watching episodes I remember watching when I was six years old, but I realise I was misremembering them.

Secondly: I realise that watching this show sowed the seeds of feminism in me at an early age. Even in the 1970s, in a less politically correct time, Jaime Sommers was a fantastic role model. As already mentioned, she was able to get herself out of pretty much any situation, as the villains always underestimated the strength of this ‘mere woman’. An early episode in season 1 has Jaime take her class of schoolchildren (for the day job she works as a teacher) on a picnic. When the boys refuse to let the girls play softball “because everybody knows girls are no good at sports” Jaime bargains with them that if she can score a home run, the girls get to play. So of course with her bionic arm she hits the ball and it flies for miles, she proves her point and the girls get to play baseball.

But I am also realising, in this retro re-watch, that actually it’s not a very good show. Apart from the appalling seventies fashions (orange and brown wallpaper? How did anyone think that looked good?), we have cardboard cut out villains, wooden acting, and implausible storylines. And then of course there are a few logicistical problems with the whole concept of bionics. Bionics are effectively cybernetics, something that I guess was a fairly new and exciting thing in the seventies. Having two bionic legs and a bionic arm are all well and good, but without a bionic spine, if you try to lift a car you’d do yourself a serious injury! And given the fact that Jaime’s bionic limbs are complete replacement for her biological ones, which got crushed beyond recognition in the skydiving accident, there is absolutely no scarring. There are a couple of episodes in which she wears swim suits, and there is no mark at all to indicate where her real skin ends and her bionic body parts begin.

But as a kid I didn’t think about any of this. I was just enraptured by the show. I found it scary at times. The last episode of season one involves a young girl (played by Kristy McNichol) obsessed with her dead mother, who was apparently accused of being a witch, and spooky things keep happening. I haven’t got to that one yet in my re-watch but I remember being creeped out by it the first time I watched it. I also haven’t got to the episodes featuring the ‘fembots’ – female robots who set out to kill Jaime. But the scenes in which the fembots walk around with no face masks, revealing a pair of staring eyes amongst circuit boards and wires terrified me as a child. I had nightmares for weeks about fembots. Hopefully they won’t creep me out quite so much forty years on.

I am enjoying my trip down memory lane in rewatching this series, and having a slightly more objective take on the impact it had on my childhood – good and bad. As I finish this blog post with the theme tune of ‘The Bionic Woman’ I’d like to open the floor to all of you reading. What TV shows from childhood had an impact on you, and have you ever watched that show in adulthood? If not, would you want to? Or is it better to keep memories of childhood firmly buried in the past, instead of running the risk of shattering one’s illusions by realising that the show you thought was amazing was actually rubbish?

My Life in Books: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

HitchhikersWe are now into the 1990s on this list of books that have made an impact on my life in some way. Technically this book should be earlier in the list, as the first time I read it was some time in the mid-80s. But I have read it several times, so perhaps chronologically it doesn’t really matter.

This was the first book that made me laugh out loud. The first time I read it, I was in high school. I remember laughing reading it on the bus on the way to school, and getting some very odd looks from my fellow passengers. But I’ve laughed just as loudly in subsequent re-readings.

Douglas Adams’ strange sense of humour was unique. Who else could decide that the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything is 42? This may say something about the people in my social circles (most of whom are fellow geeks), but on any social occasion if someone mentions the meaning of life, someone else will pipe up with, “42”. Who else could decide that the worst swear word in the universe is “Belgium”?

His most famous quote is, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” I think a lot of us can relate to that one – especially writers.

The character of Arthur Dent, reluctant space traveller and Ordinary Bloke, stumbles through his adventures (wearing his pyjamas and dressing gown for the whole of the first book) with a sense of disbelief, like he can’t believe it’s all really happening. Rumour has it that Douglas Adams based this character on himself. It’s probably no accident that Arthur Dent’s initials are the reverse of Douglas Adams’.

The Hitchhiker’s series was supposed to be a trilogy, but there ended up being rather more than that. None of them were ever quite as good as the first and original.

I was really upset to hear the news of Douglas Adams’ death, at age 49 in 2001. Apparently he had a heart attack after going to the gym.

I always suspected that working out was bad for your health.

Monday’s Friend: Margaret Fieland

Today I am pleased to have fellow MuseItUp author Margaret Fieland as my guest. Welcome, Margaret!

SJT:  When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

MargaretFielandMF:  LOL, I never realized I was destined to be a writer – I fell into it. I’d written poetry for years, collecting it in notebooks stacked in my attic when I wrote one I wanted to keep. This led me to several online sites and ultimately to discovering the Muse Online Writers Conference where I hooked up with Linda Barnett Johnson and joined her writers forums. She required everyone to write both fiction and poetry, so, with much trepidation, I started writing fiction. Then I got hooked on it, wrote a chapter book, took the ICL course and actually learned how to write it. Then in 2010, I was seized by a desire to write a sci fi novel, so I spent six weeks or so on world building, mostly, with a bit of plotting thrown in for good measure.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

MF:  I’m a way-back sci-fi fan, and Robert A. Heinlein influenced me heavily. I took a lot away from his writing, notably the value of surprising one’s reader. I also love Lewis Carroll, both his Alice books and his poetry. I can still recite several stanzas of Jabberwocky from memory. Isaac Asimov and James M. Barrie are also early influences.

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MF:  Don’t let your vision of yourself as a writer be limited. I never, other than for English class, wrote a word of fiction before I joined Linda’s writing forums. It simply never occurred to me that I could – or that I wanted to. A clear failure of imagination.

SJT:  You bio says you read a lot of science fiction aimed at boys when you were growing up. There is a myth out there that science fiction is written by, and for, men. Do you think any progress has been made in the last few years about raising public awareness that women write, and read, science fiction?

MF:  Well, there is certainly lots more sci fi written by women now-a-days, and I do believe more women are reading the genre. But there were actually women sci fi writers when I was growing up – Andre Norton and C.L. Moore, to name a couple. Do notice, however, the androgynous names. Things have indeed improved a bit since then. But I do believe that sci fi is viewed as a largely male preserve, just like, sadly, computer software engineering.

SJT:  Where do think the human race will be a hundred years from now – utopia, dystopia, or the same place we are now?

MF:  About the same place we are now, truthfully. However, from a writers’ point of view, this is probably the least interesting alternative {grin}, so my writing certainly won’t reflect this rather mundane view of our future. As a writer, predicting disaster of one kind or another is a much more fruitful source. In my Aleyne novels, the backstory includes a collapse of technology here on Earth in about 100 years, due to riots that brought down the government and destroyed infrastructure.

SJT:  Tell us about your latest release.

Geek GamesMF:  The latest release was Geek Games, which is actually the second Aleyne novel, in terms of chronology. It features a fourteen-year-old main character, Martin Samuels, who foolishly brings down the spaceport computer network, thus enabling the terrorists to set off a bomb which kills his friend’s father. The third novel in the series, Broken Bonds, was released in July. It features Brad Reynolds, who is the Major in charge of the Federation Guard base on Aleyne. It takes place roughly four years after Geek Games.

SJT:  What are you working on at present?
I’m finishing up the fourth book in the series. It’s another adult novel, a sci fi action-adventure romance, and the main character is Colonel Robert Walker, the man who (spoiler) arrests Brad for treason in Broken Bonds. I’ve been calling it Rob’s Book as a working title, but I’m going to have to get busy soon and pick out a real one.

I also just started plotting out a fantasy. It takes place some unknown hundreds of years in the future where we’re experiencing another ice age. My main character and his clan are living in caves.

Author Bio:

Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. Her poems and stories have appeared in journals such as Turbulence Magazine, Front Range Review, and All Rights Reserved. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines, was published by Inkspotter Publishing in November, 2011. She is the author of Relocated, Geek Games, and Broken Bonds, published by MuseItUp Publishing, and of Sand in the Desert, a collection of science fiction persona poems. A chapter book is due out later this year.

Find Margaret online at the following links:

Pinterest
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

brokenbonds_200X300Blurb for BROKEN BONDS

Sex with aliens? How about romance with aliens? A treason accusation? Brad Reynolds has his hands full. When Major Brad Reynolds is assigned to head the Terran Federation base on planet Aleyne, the last thing he expects to find is love, and certainly not with one of the alien Aleyni. How can he keep his lover, in the face of political maneuvering and of Ardaval’s feelings for his former partners — and theirs for him?

Buy Links:

Publisher’s website
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Bookstrand

 BLURB for GEEK GAMES

When fourteen-year-old Martin lets Tom, a charismatic bully, persuade him to bring down the spaceport computer network, he never considers someone will place a bomb resulting in the death of his friend’s father. Nothing will bring Captain Frey back, but if Martin can help locate the terrorists’ drug lab, perhaps he’ll be able to forgive himself.

Buy links:

Publisher’s website
Amazon
Omnilit

 

Dr Who

It’s the 50th anniversary of the TV show ‘Dr Who’, and the UK has Who mania.  The anniversary episode airs here tomorrow night, and it has been much hyped.

So I thought a post about this unique TV show was appropriate.

‘Dr Who’ first aired on British TV in 1963.  The story goes that this little quirky science fiction show about an eccentric alien time traveller became so popular, that when its star William Hartnell decided he wanted to leave the show, the producers were so reluctant to finish the series they came up with the idea that since the character wasn’t human, he could regenerate into someone else so they could carry on with the series.   They subsequently cast Patrick Troughton as The Doctor.

Every British kid has grown up with Dr Who since 1963.  I know my dad has watched every episode.  My earliest memory of the show is the episode in which Jon Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker.  That was 1974 – I would have been four years old.  I remember it nonetheless.  Tom Baker is the Doctor I grew up with – he played the part from 1974 to 1981.  Sometimes it scared me silly (“The Hand of Fear” gave me nightmares for weeks), but I watched it every week anyway.

At the end of January 1980, we moved to Canada.  At that time, ‘Dr Who’ wasn’t on over there.  I pretty much missed everything between Peter Davidson and Sylvester McCoy, until I moved back to England in 1988 – until the early 1990s, when we got cable TV, and UK Gold repeated them all, and I was able to catch up.

Then there was a one-off TV movie, featuring Paul McGann as The Doctor, released in 1996 but set in 1999.  It had American backing, was heavily Americanised and a lot of fans think it took too much creative licence to be true to the series.

Then in 2005 the series was relaunched again, internationally.  Suddenly Americans and Canadians were big fans of ‘Dr Who’.  Following Christopher Eccleston’s departure David Tennant played the role for five years, and when he left it was Matt Smith.

In my opinion, there are two types of Dr Who fans.  There are those who have been following the series since its early days.  And there are those who have been following it since its 21st century relaunch.  This latter category of fans were a bit floored in a David Tennant episode when he made passing reference to having been a dad – the reaction was, “What?  Where’s that come from?  You can’t leave it there!”  Those of us who have been with the show since the early days know that The Doctor’s first companion was his granddaughter Susan, and therefore we already know he must have been a dad once.

The fans who have only been watching it in the last eight years are getting a different sort of experience.  The 21st century ‘Dr Who’ has a bigger budget, more spectacular special effects and far more complex story lines.  The last couple of years have been even more complex.  Once upon a time, you could sum up ‘Dr Who’ in one sentence:  “Eccentric 900-year-old alien travels through space and time in a space ship that looks like a police box”.  Try and sum up the last two seasons of ‘Dr Who’ in one sentence, and you’ll struggle.

There has also been a precedent, in recent years, to cast young good-looking men in the role of The Doctor, and have attractive female companions who he gets to snog.  This is, as I understand it, to attract more young women into watching the show, but it has given it a whole new dimension that just wasn’t present in the old days.  Could you imagine Tom Baker’s Doctor snogging Sarah Jane Smith?  It was unthinkable.  He just wasn’t that sort of Doctor.

In the UK, you can generally tell people’s age by which Doctor they grew up with.  Tom Baker remains my favourite – he was constant throughout my childhood.  David Tennant is a close second, but it’s a different league because he is one of the new incarnations of The Doctor.

The much-anticipated 50th anniversary episode is on tomorrow night, and sneak previews have been promising.  I remain optimistic that this show will marry the old series with the new – and therefore unite all fans.  That’s a tall order, I know, for a TV show.  Whether or not it will deliver, remains to be seen.  Every ‘Dr Who’ fan in the UK will be glued to the TV tomorrow night.

As a further homage to ‘Dr Who’, it seems appropriate to end on this Youtube video, which merges every single sequence of opening credits, from 1963 to 2013.  You can tell from this how the show has changed over the years.  At some point in the 1970s, it changed to colour.  The sequence from the Paul McGann film has a definite ‘Hollywood’ influence.  Sylvester McCoy’s opening sequence has a suspiciously 1980s flavour.  And the practice of including the current face of The Doctor in the credits, which was dropped in the 21st century series, returns for the last season of Matt Smith’s run – hinting of a return to the original storyline.

So, fellow, Who fans, I want to hear from you.  What’s your earliest memory of  The Doctor?  Though I ask you not to comment on the 50th anniversary episode for the time being, at least – let’s avoid spoilers for those who will be catching up with it later!

BristolCon 2013

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This year will see my first attendance at BristolCon, a one-day convention organised by the Bristol Fantasy & SF Society, in its fifth year.

This year’s event takes place on 26 October, and now that the programme has been officially released I am pleased to be able to announce my programme items.  I am going to be quite busy for this one.

I am kicking off at 10:00 am with a panel on innovative deaths.  Lots of scope there for interesting discussion, I am sure.  Between now and then I shall be trying to come up with new and gruesome ways of killing people.  All in the name of research, of course.

At 2:00 pm there will be a mass signing for all authors present, and an opportunity to sell books, and I will be pitching up there with copies of SOUL SCREAMS.  I’ll also be happy to sign anything that contains one of my stories, and I’m putting this out as a challenge to try and find who’s got the oldest publication.  Has anyone out there got an old copy of PEEPING TOM with my story in?  Or, to go even further back, the October 1989 issue of FEAR?  If anyone brings me one of these to sign I’ll give them a free copy of one of my books.

At 4:00 pm I am moderating my first panel – on the pros and cons of small press publishing.  I am really excited about this, as I think it’s a perfect topic for me to be moderating, and there are lots of discussion points on this subject to put to the panel.

There are many other fabulous items on the very full programme, and if you are able to get to Bristol for the day do consider coming along – there aren’t too many Cons that you can do in their entirety in a day, and the membership for this one is a mere £20.  A bargain for the price.

Britain’s most established genre Cons are BFS FantasyCon and EasterCon, but it’s reassuring to see a rise in the number of smaller Cons that start out as small local gatherings and gradually get bigger every year.  The UK may be too small to compete with the US for the number of Cons, but there’s no doubt that the number of SF/Fantasy/Horror fans in this country is on the rise.  And where fans gather, Cons will happen.  The only down side is there are now so many fantastic Cons, I have to decide each year which ones I’m going to do.  I have neither the leave allocation nor the finances to do all of them.  I wish I could.

If you make it to BristolCon, do seek me out – it would be great to see you (if nothing else, as a reassurance that people do actually read this blog).  In the meantime however, I must dash.  I’ve got to go and think up some intelligent questions to ask my panel.

Monday’s Friend: Lyndi Alexander

I am pleased to welcome Lyndi Alexander to the blog today, talking about the themes in her newly released YA post-apocalyptic novel.

THEMES IN APOCALYPSE
By Lyndi Alexander

Several summers ago, I gave in to the hype and read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I knew it depicted a post-apocalyptic world before I read it, so I was prepared for some darkness. I just didn’t expect that future to be so black.  Same with The Hunger Games. Children killing other children for the entertainment of those not required to participate is pretty grim.

Merriam Webster defines an apocalypse as “a great disaster : a sudden and very bad event that causes much fear, loss, or destruction.”

So, an event. One (perhaps extended) moment in time that changes life from that point on for a number of people.

But even in light of the significance of such an event, the outcome doesn’t have to be a pessimistic one, does it? Each of us as human being has a choice when faced with events—we can succumb to our negative tendencies, or we can take hold of our swaying reality with both hands and steer into a positive current.

I don’t know a person who hasn’t suffered a loss that hasn’t sucked their own life into a void for a period of time, whether that’s the death of a parent/spouse/child, a divorce, loss of a long-time job, or the outcome of a natural disaster. What shows their character is how they react to this event.

Or as it says in the Chinese proverb that is the epigraph for my latest YA novel, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”

In WINDMILLS, what’s meant as a local terrorist act becomes a global apocalypse as a virus that targets Caucasians spreads to wipe out most of the white population of the United States and the rest of the world. Minorities become majorities. Power shifts. But the important battles don’t take place on the field of war, but in the heart and soul of each individual.

In contrast to Stephen King’s similarly post-apocalyptic THE STAND, this story doesn’t base itself on the traditional religious lines between God and the Devil. Good is personified by young Lin Kwan, who is challenged to bring healing herbs across a lawless Pacific ocean to her scientist father in what’s left of America, with the hope of stopping the mutation of this virus and saving everyone who’s survived. Or Xi San, a former pre-med student who’s lost his whole family and has set himself up as a vigilante, saving people in his neighborhood from the gangs, awaiting his own death. Or Eddie Garrick, just turned 18, a gifted electrogeek who sets off across the country to help get radio communications working again.

Of course there are others with less honorable motives. The assassin Jin Piao, sent from China to kill Kwan and her father before they succeed.  Gabriel, a white supremacist, emerged from his bunker to exact revenge on the non-whites who have changed his world. Others determined to live by lootings and murders. They’ve made their choices. But will they triumph?

How about you? If an apocalypse—a terrible event out of your control—came to your life, would you give in to those base urges and run wild, or would you hold tight to those moral teachings that have guided you all your life?  Would you build a wall, or a windmill?

Windmills1EXCERPT:

She had a few family heirlooms, things her parents hadn’t felt safe carrying with them across the ocean: an abalone-and-pearl hair comb of her mother’s; and her father’s treasures of some old military medals, a handful of Japanese military yen he’d kept from an earlier war, and three gold yuan that predated Communist rule of the People’s Republic. Even to a collector, these  personal possessions would hardly bring much in the way of cash. She could think of no way they could possibly raise the money they’d need to make the trip.

Doomed from the start.

Shuai peered shyly around the corner from the bedroom. Even though she wasn’t included in this conversation, she could scarcely avoid overhearing them.

“I can sell my hair,” she whispered.

The thought struck horror into Kwan’s heart. Women of her family had always been encouraged to grow long hair, feeling that even if they didn’t have a lot of money, at least they would have beautiful personal assets.

“No, Shuai,” she said quickly.

The little girl stared at her. “We both could. They could make several wigs for the fancy women. They can afford to pay.”

Kwan’s breath caught in her throat, or was that rising nausea? Her long, thick hair had defined her for years and hadn’t been significantly cut since she was five years old. Boys complimented her on it. Other girls coveted it. She had no parents, no money, old hand-me-down clothing, nothing worthwhile, but others had envied her hair.

It was her one vanity.

Ehaung stood in the doorway, plate trembling in the hands she held clenched on its edges. “Your hair…”

Tears came to Kwan’s eyes. She studied Shuai’s hair, lying free and loose on her back. Maybe twenty-four inches. She knew hers was the same. Their hair was tended and well-cared for. “We could make a thousand yuan, maybe more. But, no, Shuai. I couldn’t ask you to do that.”

“I want to,” the little girl insisted. Her bottom lip stuck out as her eyes glittered with determination. “It will grow back. If my hair can see you safely to the care of my uncle, then why should I not give it?”

Kwan’s throat was full, and she could not speak. Her cousin’s generosity, the support of the entire remainder of her family, amazed and pleased her.

“Mine, too,” Ehuang said, her voice a soft murmur. She set the almond cookies on the table and returned to the kitchen for the teapot.

The scent of the baking cookies had filled the apartment all afternoon; Kwan’s mouth had watered, waiting for them to be served. Now, their festive promise had changed to the taste of dust in her mouth.

Kwan turned to look at Zhong, who sat nodding with approval.

“All great causes require sacrifice, Kwan.”

The pain of anticipating her new shorn look sat on her shoulder for a moment then faded. This was only a means to an end. A small price to pay for what she must do.

For more information about WINDMILLS:

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AUTHOR BIO

Lyndi Alexander is by day a lawyer fighting domestic violence, by night a single mother of two special-needs children. She enjoys thinking of “what-ifs” and “what might be” and sharing those musings with her readers. Stop by the Polka Dot Banner book battle and read the first chapter of WINDMILLS for free–  http://www.polkadotbanner.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=93&Itemid=100191

New Feline Friends

This is a post all about our new kittens.  Just to forewarn you.  Just in case you don’t like cats, or something.

When I blogged about putting my old cat Misha to sleep a few weeks ago, I’d already decided to get new cats.  The house just felt too empty without them.

We took our other cats from kittenhood to old age, and we decided we’d like to do the same to some more cats. There really needed to be two, to keep each other company, since we are generally out at work all day.

We went through the Cats Protection League in the end.  As it happened, they had plenty of kittens looking for homes – as it was June, it was possibly the right time of year.  They dutifully sent someone round to check our home was suitable for cats.  No problems there, since we have plenty of space and a good size garden.  And thus we were sent to a CPL ‘foster mum’ who had kittens needing homes.  The lady we saw was lovely, but was one of these people who seem to be better with cats than with people.  The place was absolutely full of cats.  About a dozen of them were hers – I gathered that she would adopt any cat who came through her care who did not find a new home.  There were also lots of kittens, in cages.  The two that immediately charmed us were a pair of black and white sisters, who were 12 weeks old.  They seemed very laid back when we picked them up and stroked them, and seemed very friendly.  We were told that they were the last two of a litter that had been abandoned at the police station.

They were extremely nervous when we brought them home, and spent two days hiding behind Hubby’s guitar cases before they would come out.  But eventually they got a bit braver, and started to explore their new home.

Cassie (L) and Alia (R)

Cassie (L) and Alia (R)

They are both black, with white back paws and white patches on their chest.  We have named them Alia and Cassie.  Alia has a bigger white patch on her chest, and is a bigger kitten, though I imagine this situation will not remain as they get older, as Cassie is greedier and is now almost as big as her sister.

We’ve had them about a month now, and they are four months old.  They are very familiar with the house, and with us, and they are into everything.  They chase each other around the house, climb up anything that’s static and chase anything that moves.  They are particularly fond of chasing shoe laces – normally when you are trying to do them up.  My last cats were old when they died, and spent most of their time sleeping.  I had forgotten how active kittens can be.  You have to be careful where you step, as they have this habit of following directly behind you, and you have to be careful what you leave lying around, as they’ll either play with it or try to eat it.

They were rather timid when we first got them, but they have now got to be very friendly.  They run and greet me when I come in from work, wanting strokes and cuddles.  When other people visit the house they remark on how friendly the kittens are – they now seem very comfortable with visitors, and have worked out that if they come over looking all adorable, they’ll get some attention.

The Cats Protection League are quite insistent that all kittens get neutered at the appropriate age, and that cats are not let out until they have been neuteured, to prevent unwanted kittens.  I have no issue with this policy, and I have every intention of getting them neutered.  But that can’t happen until they are five months old, and they are already trying very hard to get out.  We have to be careful not to leave either the back or the front door open, as if they notice it they will make a run for it.  The UK has been sweltering in a heatwave over the last three weeks.  Not being able to open the back door to let some breeze in has been a tad inconvenient.

We have instead been opening the windows, but now we have to be careful of that too, as Cassie has already got out through one of the upstairs ones.  The window is right above the front porch.  It seems she made her escape from the window to the porch, and then the porch to the ground.  I spent ages hunting high and low before ascertaining she wasn’t in the house.  I found her eventually under the car, looking rather terrified.  It seems this kitten wanted to explore the world, and when she got there she decided that the world was big and scary.   I had trouble persuading her to come out from under the car.  In the end I had to entice her out with a plate of tuna, so I could grab her and bring her back inside (they are both very fond of all kinds of fish, we’ve worked out).  She seemed no worse for wear for her little adventure, but I’m not sure she’s learned not to jump out of windows.  Just in case, I’m now endeavouring to make sure they are open just a tiny crack, and not leave a space big enough for a kitten to squeeze through.

There will come a point when they will get too big to both squeeze onto this windowsill - currently a favourite spot.

There will come a point when they will get too big to both squeeze onto this windowsill – currently a favourite spot.

If anyone’s wondering about the names, we have a tradition of naming our cats after characters in current D&D games.  These two kittens happen to both be named after magic users, but since they are mostly black, like witch’s cats, that seems appropriate.  Alia is my character in one of the games we play.  The more discerning geek might have remembered that Alia is the name of Paul Atreides’ mad sister in Frank Herbert’s DUNE.  This is, of course, where I originally got the name from.

They do keep insisting on doing cute things.  So I have no doubt you will be hearing lots more about their adventures in future…

Monday’s Friend: Chandra Ryan (2)

Today I am pleased to welcome Chandra Ryan once more to my blog, to talk about the hero of her forthcoming sci fi erotic romance.  Welcome, Chandra!

Would you be friends with any of your heroes?
By Chandra Ryan

My husband asked me this about a year ago and it really threw me for a loop. At the time, Isaac from Bond Betrayed was my most recent hero. The truth was I wasn’t sure if I’d be his friend. Isaac is intense. And he completely buys into the belief that the end justifies the means. Truth be told, he kind of scared me a little. As does his family. Which is why I wrote Nikki for him. Let me tell you, that girl can hold her own. And yeah, she kind of scares me too.

I mean, sure I’d have coffee with them. Talk about how the kids are doing (I’m sure they’ll have little ones to talk about in the near future). But my definition of a friend, a true friend, is someone you can call at midnight and know they’ll answer the phone. If Isaac needed me at midnight, I’d be terrified there was a body involved.

ulteriormotives_msrWhen I set about writing my newest release, ULTERIOR MOTIVES, I did so with this conversation in mind. Heroes can be strong and confident without being scary. Right? And I should have at least one hero who I would answer my phone for. And so Jasper Lee was born. Jasper is the consummate diplomat who believes a person can enact change from within a system. He went into law to do just that. And when he noticed an inordinate amount of land seizures coming across his desk, he sets off to find out what’s going on.

Poor Jasper. He has no idea his desire to help people is going to make him question the beliefs he holds most dear and shape his destiny. And, yes, he does have to make a couple of scary decisions along the way. But, after writing his story, I can honestly say I’d answer my phone for him at midnight. Of course it helps that he’s resourceful and takes care of his own bodies.

Blurb:

Universal Defiance, Book One

On a rural settler planet, Kat must resort to putting out an ad to find a husband. She doesn’t expect to find love—that’s a dream in these parts—just a partner to help work her ranch. Then the devastatingly handsome Jasper answers her ad and turns her on in ways she never dreamed possible. Too bad he’s not who he says he is.

Jasper doesn’t know what he’s getting into when he ventures undercover to investigate a legal claim against Kat’s ranch. But after a toe-curling night under her roof and in her bed, he’s willing to do anything to stay there. He can’t say no to the tough-as-nails businesswoman who makes his body come alive.

When people start getting hurt, though, both Kat and Jasper have to decide how valuable one piece of land is. And the ranch that brought them together might be the very thing standing between them.

A Romantica® sci fi erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

Buy links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Ulterior-Motives-Universal-Defiance-ebook/dp/B00DSOY4SO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373979794&sr=1-1&keywords=Ulterior+Motives+Chandra+Ryan

Ellora’s Cave:  http://www.ellorascave.com/ulterior-motives.html

ChandraBio:

Being from a rather nomadic family, Chandra Ryan loves to travel and meet people. But she’s found that sometimes, like when you’re stuck inside because of a good old-fashioned Southwestern heat wave, you have to make do. Fortunately for her and her loving family, who don’t like seeing her suffer from cabin fever, she’s found creating new people and places equally as fascinating. Also, you’re a lot less likely to spill your ice tea.

Author Links:

 Website: http://www.chandraryan.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chandra.ryan

Twitter: @ChandraRyan

 

What I’m Doing At EasterCon

The schedule for this year’s EasterCon – otherwise known as EightSquared Con – has now been confirmed. I am very excited because I shall be doing my first panel.

There has been some last minute shuffling due to confusions in availability, but I can now confirm that this is my schedule:

Saturday 30 March, 12pm – Genre Get Together (Fantasy)
Sunday 31 March, 1pm – Head to Head Panel:  Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker.

The Genre Get Together is billed as an opportunity for fans to meet authors and get books signed. I’m currently having recurring nightmares that all the other authors involved in this will have long queues of adoring fans waiting to talk to them, whilst I’ll be standing there alone like Billy No Mates.  So, if you’re going to EasterCon, and you’ve got a copy of SOUL SCREAMS or SIBLINGS or anything else with one of my stories in, do come along and get it signed. Even if you don’t, just come along for a chat, and stave off my nightmare.

The panel has been a last minute change, but I am immensely looking forward to it. Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker – two greats of gothic horror fiction, and I could talk for hours about these two writers. Finding things to say really won’t be a problem. More of an issue is the need to refrain from hogging the panel.

It goes without saying that there is much, much more to look forward to than just my panel debut. There are all the usual pleasures of a Con. Spending hours in the bar with fellow spec fiction fans, conversing cheerily about much geekery. The wondrous things for sale in the dealer room. The chance to meet other – more famous – writers. The chance to catch up with all the fellow geeks I only ever meet in person at conventions.

And, let’s not forget, the first episode of the new season Doctor Who, which is always broadcast on the big screen at Eastercon and is one of the Con highlights.

I am already bouncing up and down in anticipation. Four more sleeps!