Category Archives: science fiction

Review: Liquid Gambit, by Bonnie Milani

Title: Liquid Gambit

Author: Bonnie Milani

Genre: Science Fiction, novella

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I reviewed another of Bonnie’s works a couple years back, Home World, which featured a rarity, the pure Earth DNA human, as well as several offshoot species like the dog-like Lupans. In Liquid Gambit, Bonnie creates a spin-off tale taking liberal themes from the movie Casa Blanca and using them to explore her universe and characters. So meet Rick, a Lupan bar owner in a run-down space station where slavers basically own the local government. A mysterious human woman walks into his bar, and he finds himself debating between greed and kindness.

Sound familiar?  There are definitely parts of this story that are, and delightfully so. But there’s also the fact this takes place on a space station and involves a Lupans and other strangeness.

I would recommend readers to first read Home World, in order to better understand the universe in which this story takes place. For fans of that book, this is a welcome return to what is a witty, often funny but also heart-touching space opera.

Release Day! Model #37 now out everywhere

And it’s now out!  Amazon (and all its markets), Barnes and Noble, Ibooks, Smashwords, Kobo… well everywhere except for Google, who is being a pain right now. Check out this classic science fiction short story two-pack today!

dna spiral

A Science Fiction Short Story Two-pack

Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Excerpt:

She crossed her arms, looking hard at him. “What is this place? I thought you said it was a beauty pageant! For special people like me!”

He glanced around nervously and took her by the arm. “This isn’t the place to talk. We can discuss it later, once we’re home.” At the sound of the audience clapping, he frowned. “They’re too narrow-minded. Kitchen shelves! Idiots.” He pulled her over towards the coat rack where several shiny metallic coats hung, including his own.

They were leaving before the show even ended? Baby tore her hand away, glaring at him. “I want to hear about the other models. I want to hear what they say.” More than that, she wanted answers to the mystery of what this place was really about.

His bushy brows drew together. Father was older, with gray hair and glasses. They looked nothing alike, and yet he had said that she was born of his genetic materials. “Don’t speak back to me. When I say it’s time to go, you obey.” He grabbed her arm again.

The other models watched them with concerned looks on their faces. Baby tried to break free of his hold. “When do I have a say in what I do? Didn’t you just say I’m an adult now? When can I meet people, see places?”

Father opened his mouth to reply, then shut it. “I’ll explain everything later. Once we’re home.” He glanced at the muscled security standing nearby. “I need assistance. Help me get her into the car.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Baby saw Moo returning from the stage. Their eyes met, and he frowned, seeing her struggle.

Fear churned in her gut. She’d argued once with Father when he’d told her it was time to get in the cage. He’d struck her across the cheek. The mark had only lasted a day or two, but she never forgot the shame of disappointing him, the anger in his eyes.

Moo was walking away. She might not ever get to see him again, or talk to him. Baby squared her shoulders and glared at her father. “Let go of me. You can’t make me go with you. I’m a legal adult now.” She hadn’t ever read an actual law, but she’d read enough to know that adults had rights under the Constitution. It occurred to her that Father might be breaking a law or two with how he was keeping her, now that she was eighteen.

“Baby,” he pleaded, looking angry and hurt at the same time. “What’s gotten into you?”

New Cover: Eight Minutes Until the End of the World

So just a quick announcement today: I finally got a new cover for the very first short story pack that I published as an indie writer: “Eight Minutes Until the End of the World.” This short humorous tale, about aliens who make a booboo and then try to save the best that Earth has to offer, was published originally on the “Alienskin” emagazine website. The tale is coupled with an original space-opera style story about a starship with artificial intelligence who would do anything to save her captain.

Check them out!  Also, for those who sign up for my newsletter, I’m offering the book for free with a coupon code at Smashwords.

8minutesrevised300

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eight-Minutes-Until-End-World-ebook/dp/B007Z1OR8S/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/157219

Description:

On the Tridak ship, an alien utters the worst thing an alien can ever say: “Oops!” And on Earth in NASA’s latest project, the Mercury Probe Orbiter, John Fanchett makes the fateful announcement: “Sir, we got a big problem. The sun is going nova.”

The problem is, John only has eight minutes before the end of planet Earth, to solve the mystery of an alien language and his own survival.

Bonus short story: The Emergence

The Emergence has always loved her captain, and as aliens endanger her, she must take steps to avoid what could be a horrible blunder with alien intelligence. For the Emergence is one of the first artificially intelligent spaceships.

Book Review: Mutation Z, the Ebola Zombies

Marilyn

Book: Mutation Z: The Ebola Zombies

Author: Marilyn Peake

Genre: Horror

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Anyone who reads my blog enough knows that I like horror, dystopic, and disaster books. I actually had Ms. Peake on my blog a while back for an author interview, and she offered me a copy of her book to read and review. First I want to say that I’m incredibly picky about books that I’ll consider for review. Every book I read goes through the “sample” test. I read the first few chapters and see if it pulls me in. If it does, I keep reading. If not, I don’t. I can’t tell you how many samples haven’t pulled me in.

This one did. So that’s a credit to Peake’s writing ability.

I wish this book had gone a bit further than it did–the biggest thrill of an apocalypse novel is watching society break down and the terror of fighting the zombies, which this book never gets to. It’s really set up more as a short story with just a snappy ending. But I still enjoyed it.

I see this story appealing more to the YA crowd, because that’s the style of writing. The narrator is a young and inexperienced nurse and sees danger in every little thing. I found it amusing, but I an see where others might find it annoying.

So all in all, this was a bit of light-hearted fun peeking into the dark side of current events.

Author Interview: Edward M. Grant

edward

Things always get crazy before a holiday, and today is no exception. But sit back and enjoy–I have an interview today with Edward M. Grant, science fiction writer who has also worked on indie films. You can find out more about Edward at the links below:

Website: http://www.edwardmgrant.com

Blog: http://blog.edwardmgrant.com

Twitter: edwardmgrant

1.  So what first inspired you to write a book?

I’ve been writing for as long as I remember. Even as a kid in primary school, the teacher would ask us to write a story, and I’d come back the next week with a novel. I’m sure they were dire, but I clearly had determination, if not talent. In the 90s, I became fed up with rejections from publishers and switched to writing movie scripts instead while I worked on indie movies in the UK. It was only when Amazon made self-publishing viable that I began writing novels and short stories again.

2.  I see you like science fiction. Why?  What about this genre appeals to you?

When I was a kid, the Apollo program was coming to an end with American and Soviet astronauts meeting in space, Concorde was just starting to fly, and we all knew we’d be travelling around the world at five times the speed of sound and living on the Moon by the time I grew up. The present of 1970s England might have been perpetual strikes and power cuts, but SF told us the future was going to be much better. Well, it didn’t work out that way, but SF remained one of the most interesting and optimistic genres, and one which often made today’s Big Issues seem quite laughable when compared with issues humanity will have to face in the future. I suspect many of us are writing it so we can imagine the future we’d like to have been living in, had things turned out differently.

3.  I understand you have a series of short pieces, the “Dirk Beretta” series. Tell me about that.

Dirk Beretta is a tough but dumb retired Space Marine, who quit the service after most of his friends were killed by Space Weasels at the Battle of Din Bin Foo, which is now a high-class tourist resort. So far, as he searches for another line of work that suits his destructive skills, he’s rescued a damsel in distress, saved an alien planet from the perils of democracy, and another from an environmentally unsound mining company. The next story, which will hopefully be out by Christmas, takes him back in time to ancient Egypt, in a desperate attempt to save the bagel. I wrote them for fun, after inventing the character for a writing exercise on a web forum, and never really expected to sell many copies. I was surprised when ‘Space Weasels’ sold more ebooks than all my other stories.

4.  What do you have coming out next?

I’ve just finished ‘Smiling Is Contagious’, my attempt at a hard SF zombie short story, and plan to release it for Halloween. I wrote it a couple of years ago for an SF anthology, but the story I ended up with wasn’t quite what they were looking for. The new version is about three times as long, and I’m going to expand it into a novel for NaNoWriMo this year. I have a horror short story in the upcoming charity anthology, ‘For Whom The Bell Trolls’, and will have an SF story in the Kboards flash fiction anthology. After that… well, I was just looking through the unfinished novels on my computer, and I have about a dozen that I need to finish off and publish!

5.  Tell me a fun fact about yourself.

I’ve sung karaoke–badly–on British TV.

6.  Who is your favorite writer, and why?

If I had to pick one, it would be Arthur C Clarke. I have many of his books on my book shelves, and re-read some now and again. His non-fiction was always insightful and thought-provoking, even when later events proved his predictions wrong. His fiction, while often dated and weak on characterization, generally tried to build realistic stories based on the scientific understanding of the time.

7.  I think a common perception is that science fiction writers have to be scientists. What’s your background, and how has it helped or not helped in your writing?

I studied Physics at Oxford, so I’m definitely in that category. I’m not entirely sure it does help, as I’m constantly wondering whether the things I’m writing could actually work, and then going into hours of research to see whether I’m right. Other writers would probably just pick something that seems plausible and leave it at that.

8.  What advice do you have for other writers?

No matter how much you think you’ve learned about writing, in a year or two, you’ll look back on today’s stories and realize how little you knew.

Book Review: The Radiant Seas

asaro

Book: The Radiant Seas

Author: Catherine Asaro

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

SPOILER ALERT!  This review discusses themes and arcs in the books that reveal key plot points.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series with the way Asaro mixed some hard science with softer romance and some very interesting bio-engineering and psychic abilities. It was new (to me at least) and different than a lot of other science fiction I’d read. I didn’t enjoy this one as much, however. It was still a good book and a decent ending, but I found myself not liking the main characters, which was a problem.

In the first book, Sauscony was a fully dimensional character who struggled with her title and role as a leader and fighter and her needs and wants as a woman and empath. The struggle was dynamic, and I felt there was a pivotal moment when she realized that she was born to lead and had a commitment to her people. With an ongoing war that has killed millions of people, she was even given the opportunity to meld two enemy nations together. Instead, she went into hiding to have her perfect family life.

That was forgivable, given her needs as a woman.  However, in this book, after living her dream life for sixteen years or so, once again she’s thrust into power and the war, and once again she has the opportunity to take that mantle with her new husband the Emperor and her three children born of two races. What disappointed me was that once again, she runs and hides, faking her death and leaving two interstellar nations adrift, leaderless, and in chaos (where history tells us that typically the worst sort of dictators tend to seize control, taking advantage of people’s fears). I thought that was unforgiveable, especially given her epiphany in the first book.

Asaro tries to save the day with the son’s sacrifice, but to me, this was like second best, and he wasn’t developed enough as a character for this to satisfy me. I never understood why his identity as half Rhon had to be hidden. In order to fool the Eubians into letting him rule?  Okay, maybe. But it just seemed like he missed a perfect opportunity to throw all their preconceived notions on their heads.

So to me this was a good book, but not entirely satisfying, and I won’t be reading the remaining books of the series.

Author Interview: Vincent Trigili

Another Friday, and I’m quite pleased by the payouts from last month’s rollout of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. In other news, I have another indie writer to present today, Vincent Trigili. He specializes in space opera and science fiction. You can find out more about Vincent at his website here:  http://www.losttalesofpower.com

vincent

1.  So what lured you into writing in the first place?

A long time ago, longer now than I would care to admit, I was a bored and hyperactive child. One of the things that was required of me as child was that I went to bed at night, supposedly to sleep, and that was very much not to my liking. I mean, you just had to lie there and be still for hours! Ugh! I think I am still emotionally scarred from that experience. To compensate for this unreasonable requirement, I started making up stories and telling them to myself. Through them I was able to escape the cruel confinement of my bed into magical worlds where heroes and villains fought in grandiose battles for the fate of the universe.

Eventually, as I got older, I learned at brainwashing camp (a.k.a. school) how to write, and sometime during my high school years I started putting one of the stories down on paper. That story I kept and worked on for decades until my wife and friends convinced me to publish it. That story became my first novel, The Enemy of an Enemy.

2.  You currently have several books out in your “Lost Tales of Power” series. Tell me about that.

I am currently working on the seventh book in that series. I call it an “open-ended series,” because I do not know a better name for what I am doing. I am not the first to do it; I actually borrowed the idea from “The Forgotten Realms” series, which was by far my favorite reading as a child. What I am doing is building a universe and then telling stories in that universe. So the first four books (called The First Quartet by fans that have been around a while) is a foundational series that builds the universe. The fifth book The Sac’a’rith starts a new series in the Lost Tales universe, which book seven will be the sequel for. Spectra’s Gambit (the sixth book) is more of a stand alone in the series. The eighth book will start yet another new set of characters and problems in the universe.

Eventually down the road when I have more written there will be several “book ones” that new readers of the series can pick up and start reading. For now, the best place to start is with The Enemy of an Enemy and work through the books in release order.

3.  I see in the description “wizards” but also “galaxy.” Would you classify this as a science fantasy? Why or why not?

Yes, and no. The proper name for the genre is “Space Opera.” The label “science-fantasy” is not really well known. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others do not list it as a category and most readers that I have spoken with do not know it. So I would not use it, especially since Space Opera is what the books are. Wikipedia has a great definition for Space Opera that fits my series perfectly:   “Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, weapons, and other technology.” (src: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_opera )

However, “science-fantasy” is not a wrong label, it is just not the best one. My books do mix many of the typical fantasy elements with many of the typical sci-fi elements just as other Space Operas do. Now, in the spectrum of mixtures, my books lean somewhat more to the fantasy side than the sci-fi side, but they are still well within the genre.

4.  I know you’ve also collaborated with other writers including Kevin J. Anderson on a charity anthology. How was that?

I have worked with four anthologies now, two that have yet to be released and two that are out, but I would not say I collaborated with Kevin J. Anderson, or most of the other famous authors whose work appears alongside mine. The truth of an anthology is much less glamorous. I would be willing to bet that Mr. Anderson has never heard of me, and I would be surprised to hear if he ever read any of my writing.   How the anthologies work is that all the authors write and edit their stories in private and then submit them to the anthology for consideration. It is the organizers of the anthology that work with everyone, and not the individual authors.

Outside of the anthologies, I have spent some time talking with and working with more successful authors and I find them all as a group to be very open and accommodating. For the most part we all seem to get along fine, regardless if I sell one book a year, or one book a minute.

5.  What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on my seventh novel, The Sac’a’rith: Rebirth. It picks up where volume five, The Sac’a’rith, left off. I hope to have it out for Christmas, and right now I am on track to do just that. As I mentioned above, I have stories in two upcoming anthologies that I am still working through the wringer with. One is a “flash fiction” piece, which is just a fancy way to say “really short.” I am not a huge fan of writing works that short, but it is a really good exercise to help you learn what is important to put into a story, and what should be cut.

The other is a longer work, and for that anthology I broke away from my typical writing style a bit. It is more of a troubled superhero story. I have been told by my pre-readers it is more gritty than normal for me, but I am not sure what that means exactly. Both of those anthologies are scheduled to be released this fall, and I will post more about them on my site, as information is ready to be released.

6.  Who is your favorite writer, and why?

Wow, that is a very hard question. When I was younger I would have listed some of the greats like Larry Niven, Ed Greenwood, Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy, or R.A. Salvatore. Today it is much harder. The rise of the Kindle and the so-called ebook revolution has broadened the market so much it is hard to pick just one great author.  So I think I am going to punt on this question and say I really enjoy reading books by lots of different authors, such as but not limited to: Michael Bunker, Cherise Kelley, Brian S. Pratt, Randolph Lalonde, Lisa Grace, Annie Bellet, Tracy Banghart, and too many more to list.

I enjoy clean stories where the author involves you in the character and you get so deep into them that you are lost in the story for hours without noticing the time flying by. I love to root for the underdog hero and watch their character grow through the story. Setting and genre are not critical to a good story, so I read a somewhat diverse cross section there.

7.  What would surprise readers to know about you?

I am not sure anything would. I am not the kind of person that hides much about himself. In a few minutes of Google searching my name you can find out a whole lot about me. Most of my personal Facebook posts are flagged as “public,” as are my Twitter posts.

Perhaps the one thing that people might not realize without digging is that I was a very poor English student. I always earned my lowest grades in those classes, and I still struggle to understand the concepts of spelling and grammar. My wife, and my professional editor, both save my readers from more mistakes than I could begin to count. They are the real heroes of my success story as a writer. I could not do it without them!

8.  What advice do you have for other writers?

Mainly, write. There really is nothing more important than getting your next book out. Marketing, while needed, will only get you flash in the pan success. The only true path to being a well-known writer is to write and write some more. It really is a volume game, but not in the traditional sense of cheap and fast.

Instead you need to write stories people want to read and you need to tell them in a readable way. Sure, some very poorly written books break out and go viral, but that is the extreme exception and is typically very short lived. For the most part, a high volume of quality work is the real key to success.

Writing books is a long-term game. Success in the short term is good in the same way that winning battles help win a war, but all that matters in war is who is standing at the end. Do you want to be standing as a respected, well-known author in 15 or 20 years? Then focus now on building a bibliography of quality work.