Posts Tagged ‘scifi’

The Stainless Steel Rat Returns by Harry Harrison

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

This is a pleasant surprise, a scifi novel that doesn’t take itself serious.  This is a light-hearted story about Jim diGriz, a thorough rogue who lives high on a vacation planet.  He is suddenly plagued by a problem Jim believed he had put behind him; his low-life cousins and their hoards of porcuswine. They show up in a hired spaceship.  Not allowed to disembark from the spaceship on the planet, Jim has to find someplace to take the cousins and their animals.  Jim and his wife Angelina travel around the galaxy  with the cousins and livestock and run Into various problems that Jim solves too easily. He doesn’t break a sweat and hardly ever misses a cocktail time.  Nevertheless, the novel is an easy read and is filed with wry humor.

Four stars

An interview with Australian author Carol Hone

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Today, I’m interviewing Carol Hone about her debut book, Edge of Humanity

1) Can you give us a brief bio?

I’m a veterinarian who has an absorbing passion for writing. My family get my attention in between the manic phases of writing that I go through. I even pat them sometimes. Luckily they don’t seem to mind eating takeaway food and dodging the rolling balls of hair and feathers that accumulate in our house due to the sixteen or so pets we own.

2) Briefly, tell us about your books.

My first book, a novella called Edge of Humanity, came out on October 18th from Lyrical Press. It’s a fantasyEdge_of_Humanity300dpiwith elements of steam punk but also with a nod towards some science fictional ideas. My main aim in creating the milieu for this book was to use some of the almost-sciences that abound in our world and insert them into a magical world.

So herbology, acupuncture and the manipulation of the body’s aura all get a look-in. As does a made-up profession that you might call bio-mechanical magic.

Kara is the female protagonist of Edge of Humanity. She narrates the story through the filter of her own perceptions and memories and proves to be an unreliable narrator. After escaping from an airship she goes on a journey to find her parents, having been separated from them while a child. From the start, she has suspicions that her masters on the airship have done something dreadful to her and she is never quite sure that anything she remembers is true.

The story unfolds as a mystery and writing it taught me a lot about how to seed clues and hints throughout a story so that by the end, the reader should have an, ‘ah-hah!’ moment. If you don’t have one of those, I’m hoping for at least an, ‘Oh-h-h, I see,’ moment. Though it is listed as a fantasy romance, don’t expect the usual HEA or happily ever after ending.

3 ) How do you develop characters?  Settings? Plots?

I tend to grow such things organically. If I feel the need to write a story, I pay closer attention to everything around me. Radio, TV, books, what people talk about. Everything. Eventually something will grab me, and then one or two other aspects of life will sit up and beg for attention also. I subscribe to the idea that to make a good story you need to combine things in a way no one else has yet done. So it’s as if there is a critical mass of ideas.

4) Do you have specific technique to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Before I start a story I like to have clear in my head some of the pivotal plot points, who the main characters are, what the setting is, and a visual idea of the ending or a major scene near it. If I can see the action playing itself out in my head and get excited about it I know I’m heading the right way.

Whenever I get bogged down while writing I ruminate about the plot and I often set down on paper almost a synopsis of what should be happening. Though I don’t call it a synopsis because those things give me the heebie jeebies – which is a technical term for going insane.

5) What are your current projects?

At the moment I’m planning my steam punk-ish novel as well as thinking about rewriting a novel called Magience, which is set in the world of Edge of Humanity. Another novel, Needle Rain, that’s also set in this milieu, is going through the beta reading stages. In that story I used the Needle Masters who are acupuncture mages, as the pivotal profession. My three main characters commit terrible wrongs and then spend the rest of the story repairing the damage they’ve done.

6) Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

My website:

And also my site at my publisher, Lyrical Press:

14)What type of writing do you do?

I write dark fantasy mostly though I am trying to expand my genres. Steam punk with a dash of the excitement of urban fantasy is one of my near-future goals.

Photo on 2010-10-17 at 15.08 #27) What is the best thing about writing?

That you can do anything. Want to fly? In a novel you can. You can give your characters any ability you want to and then send them across continents and universes to retrieve the Sword of the Abyss that can command demons from the fiery depths of hell, or you can send them on a journey to the corner store for a cup of sugar. No one will want to read the latter, but you can write it.

8) Is there a specific time of day that you write?

Any time I get a chance to sit down without being interrupted. I do find I work best when the house is empty of other sentient beings, and that includes children.

9) Any parting words of advice for writers?

Doing some writing always helps. Thinking about it is only good if you’re sitting down and applying fingers to keyboards more than you’re thinking. Though I don’t believe in the write at all costs method, because that often produces drivel if you’ve not considered where you’re going with a story.

Don’t give in if you love what you’re doing.

Listen to those who criticise if they balance the good comments with the bad.

Always leave yourself open to learning but remember that some of those who comment on your writing may have no real knowledge of what they’re talking about. How to tell the useful comments from the ones that should be trashed? Ah, that is something you have to learn through experience, meditation, and repeatedly banging your head on your desk.

Uncle Sidney’s Tailor Shop

Sunday, August 15th, 2010
Afterburn SF published this short story of mine.  You can read it at this location
Let me know what you think of it.
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Blonde Bombshell by Tom Holt

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Tom Holt goes scifi!  Ostar is a planet inhabited by intelligent dogs who keep humans as  pampered pets.  Ostar is getting bombarded by music from Earth (which the Ostars call Dirt) and they are determined to wipe out the Dirters so they can regain their sanity.  They send a planet-busting highly intelligent bomb, but it fails.  A second bomb is sent.  This one is wary and searches for the defense shield that must have destroyed the first bomb. To research further, the intelligence pits itself into a probe and transports to Dirt to search for the shield.  Named Mark Twain, it ruins into a blonde woman named Lucy Pavlov who is the CEO of the largest computer company in the world.  Oddly, Lucy can’t recall anything that happened more than five years ago.  By this time, the plot has become too complicated to explore here.

For Tom Holt fans, the book is a rare scifi treat since he usually writes fantasy.

Four out of five stars.

Summer Sale!

Thursday, July 15th, 2010
Fool’s Gold and Tunnel Vision are now on sale at the eTreasures website.  The prices are much better than on any other website.  This is a great
Fool's Gold Cover
Fool’s Gold Cover
opportunity to pick up two great books to read this summer.  Hot weather and laughter just seem to go together somehow.  Take advantage of this deal.  You don’t know how long the sale will last.


Tales for the Troops

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

This collection of ten short stories has been available only to military personnel since it became available in late 2007.  It now is available to everyone in a number of ebook formats.  For more information check out the  website page on this collection.


New Interview

Friday, April 16th, 2010
Today, I’m interviewed by Sheila Crosby on her blog.  We talk about my novel Fool’s
Fool's Gold Cover
Fool’s Gold Cover
Gold. Sheila is an author and a photographer.  She’s also a Brit ex-pat living in the Canary Islands.

Interview with Manda Benson

Friday, March 5th, 2010
1) Can you give us a brief bio?
I’m an ex-research scientist living in the Midlands of England. I’ve worked in areas of chemical research as diverse as drugs design, genetic engineering, biofuels, organic synthesis, and polymers. I’ve dabbled with teaching science, mainly at secondary and undergraduate level.
2) When did the writing bug bite and in what genre(s)?Manda
I’ve always written, for as long as I can remember. I even remember writing when I hadn’t been taught to write. Of course, no-one else could read it back then. When I started school I used to have an old black diary given to me by my grandfather, which I carried everywhere and wrote stories in. I also remember doing an illustrated series of stories about a werewolf and his friends living in a castle, using felt pens and A4 paper folded in half, and making audio stories with a cassette player. And I used to brew revolting potions in the garage and test them on my toys. So I guess I’ve always been a writer and a chemist.
3) When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish?  Is there a message you wanted readers to grasp?
I think initially I just wanted to make something coherent and permanent out of the ideas I had. Later on, I wanted to show science from an honest and balanced perspective. Some science is controversial, and with disciplines like genetic engineering there are unfortunately a lot of extreme opinions being expressed very vociferously by people who don’t understand the facts, and extreme organisations often target propaganda at teenagers. I want to write fiction that shows controversial science used for both good and bad. I want readers to make their own opinion on how far is too far, but I want it to be a balanced opinion they can understand other points of view from.
4) Briefly, tell us about your books.
Dark Tempest is a science-fiction romance recently published in electronic formatby Lyrical Press. I have a YA novel and some kids’ books  I’m currently trying to sell and some other works in  progress. I also have a serial satire with illustrations, HyperGolf, that is published on my website.
5) What’s the hook for Dark Tempest?
It’s set about 4,000 years in the future when the human race has become separated into a genetic elite and a genetic underclass. It’s the story of a taboo relationship that develops between a high-caste woman and a low-caste man who are both in peril for reasons they don’t at first understand.
6) How do you develop characters?  Settings?
With characters, the point they start from seems to be quite variable and hard to pin down. Sometimes I invent them entirely consciously for a particular purpose that a plot requires. Sometimes they come into my mind, made from bits and ends of real people, of their own volition. I rely on psychology theories a lot and use a Myers-Briggs personality type test to define the sorts of people my characters are, and when I’m writing a novel I write a biography a few pages long for each character’s history, and I draw a ‘personality tree’ that shows how different character attributes (such as ‘determined’ and ‘inquisitive’) interact in the person’s psyche. With settings, I am most often inspired by real places, or sometimes places in dreams.
7) What’s the most unusual/most likable character?
The kind of characters I usually like best are, well, shall we say, rough diamonds. I like antiheroes with more flaws than qualities!
8 ) Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
I need to let ideas stew, for anything from a month to over a year. I try to plan out the plot as much as I can before I start writing. The way I see it, a novel has three stages: mystery, revelation, action. I need to set up the mystery and how it’s resolved before I set fingers to keys, and I need to know where the book is going to end, but it’s unusual for me to know exactly how the action that gets the book from the revelation to the end is going to pan out before I write the first parts. I think this comes from the characters as they grow and change under the influence of the plot, and these ideas all come to me as I write the first part.
9) Do you have a specific writing style?  Preferred POV?
I think third person limited should be the default PoV to use, and usually it’s the best choice. However, I’ve written a few things that just needed to be in either third person omniscient or first person narrative. It really depends on the story the writer is trying to tell and the writer’s motive in telling it as to what’s the ideal PoV.
10) Have you used your drawing skills in your writing before?
Yes, I’ve done a few illustrated things. I have a children’s book that I’ve not yet sold with black-and-white drawings, and I also publish episodes of HyperGolf on my website with colour cartoons.
11) What’s HyperGolf about?
Label5 It’s a series of satirical  science-fiction episodes about  some people playing a game of  high-tech golf on a course that  runs the length and breadth of  the galaxy. Each episode stands alone and more are uploaded as and when I get round to them. It’s free to read! I decided to do it because I didn’t want to run a blog, but I wanted something fun and entertaining that people could come to the site to read.
12) What are your current projects?
I’m working on the first volume of a new SF trilogy I call Beasts. I’m also writing a novella in the same setting as Dark Tempest, and a crime/romance novel, which is a slight departure from my usual SF purism, although only a hair’s breadth away from a technothriller.
13) Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
At my website,
14) What type of writing do you do?
Science fiction and science fiction and science fiction – mainly technothrillers and hard SF. I’m a genre bender so I often combine it with humour, romance, or horror.
15) What is the best thing about writing?
When I get really bogged down in Chapter X and the ideas start flowing, I forget the practicalities and annoying realities of my real life, and live for a bit as a character solving a mystery or going on an adventure in an engrossing world that’s less constrained and more exciting!
16) Is there a specific time of day that you write?
Unfortunately, usually after midnight. That’s just the way the muse seems to go.
17) What is the most interesting book you ever read?
To be honest, it was probably a science textbook. There are endless mines of plot ideas you can get from reality.
18) Favorite authors?
My absolute favourite writer is HG Wells. I also love Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Books that influenced me as a child were Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, and The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross. More modern SF writers I’ve enjoyed are Wil McCarthy and Peter F Hamilton. Hank Quense is pretty cool too – check out his new novel and his anthology!
19) Any parting words of advice for writers?
Write. Keep writing. Submit. Keep submitting. Avoid redundancy.


New Interview

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Today I was interviewed by Susan Whitfield on her blog.  We talked  about Fool’s Gold and my writing projects.

You can catch it here.

New Story Published

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Afterburner SF just published a short story if mine.  Go here to read GS Midden.