Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Anthology Submission Call: Space Marine Midwives #spaceopera #scifi

There's currently a submission call for a new anthology of Space Marine Midwives. While the Brigade is not involved with or endorsing it, we thought members might be interested in either submitting or becoming involved with the project. At the moment the organizer is simply gauging numbers. To find out more and/or sign up to be notified of future developments, go to the sign up form by clicking HERE. As always, do your research!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

SFRB Recommends 71: Dubai Double-Cross by JC Hay

Heavily modified and highly skilled, “acquisitions expert” Elise Briggs worked behind the scenes of the corporate world’s espionage wars. Or she had, until her most recent target turns up murdered and she’s forced to go on the run with the only person who can exonerate her, the victim’s lover and personal assistant. 

Plucked off the street to be the plaything of one of the richest women in the world, Na’im thought his life was finally complete; his obedience and the suite of cybernetic modifications he carried were a small price to pay for life at the top of society. Until his boss is murdered and his only ally is the professional thief hired to rob them. 

On the run and running short on allies, Elise and Na’im are about to discover that the murderer is closer than either of them suspect. If they plan to survive on the futuristic streets of Dubai, they need to learn how to trust each other, because when everything can be upgraded and emotions can be programmed, sometimes all that can keep you human is your heart.

This is an action-packed read with lots of noir elements. The setting is super cool and imaginative, and the characters vivid while still being believable. Hay doesn't hesitate to tackle questions about selling more than your time for work, and leaves the reader thinking after they finish the story.

This recommendation by Lee Koven.

Author site: JC Hay - Science Fiction | Space Opera Romance

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Character Interview and Excerpt from DANGER IN THE STARS

Every once in a while I like to do a character interview, just for fun, so here’s one with the hero of my new book (which is hopefully going to be released by next week!).

Conor is an enforcer for the organized crime syndicate in the Sectors, known as the Amarotu Combine. He’s the second in command for Opherra, a high level crime boss on the planet (never named) where the book takes place. No spoilers, but Conor has a LOT of secrets, which he has to avoid spilling in this interview.

I took the classic ‘Proust Questionnaire’ and adapted it for this post. If I didn’t already know Conor pretty well as a character by now, then asking myself questions about him, and his likes and dislikes, can be a good way to more fully develop him (or any character in the book) as a person. Here’s a link to a 2009 post from Kathy Weiland, on 100 questions you can ask a character:
Another, more recent one from Writer’s Digest, on ten questions you can ask to help yourself get to understand you character more fully:
Tons of helpful blogs and articles out there on the topic! Just google something like “using character interviews” to find a wide range of possibilities! It's a fun way to amplify the depth of your worldbuilding and story telling.

What’s your greatest fear? People knowing too much about me.
What’s the trait you not deplore in yourself? Well right now it’s not working too well to have this insane desire to protect Miriell, the empath my boss brought in to help solve a problem.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Cruelty.
On what occasion do you lie? When do I not lie, in this job?
What do you dislike most about your appearance? Opherra prefers her closest associates to be dressed to the nines all the time and I get tired of wearing a suit. I’m more of a t shirt and utilities guy.  But she’s a lady with expensive tastes and wants us to reflect her own consequence and wealth.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life? Miriell, pretty much from the first moment I laid eyes on her, curled up in an illegal cryo sleep pod, smuggled onto the planet.
When and where were you happiest? I snuck Miriell into a garden, in the moonlight, and watching her there, so happy she sang, was worth all the risk.
What talent would you most like to have? I’d like to be as all powerful as the Mellureans, this ancient race allied with the Sectors – they have astonishing mental powers and the ability to turn any situation to their favor.
What is your current state of mind? Distracted by Miriell, worried about her, wondering what has my boss looking like the cat who ate the canary…take your pick. But it’s never a good thing when Opherra is too pleased with herself. That usually means innocent people suffer and die.
What’s your most marked characteristic? I’m efficient and I stay calm in a crisis. I get the job done.
What do you value most in your friends? I don’t have real friends in this job. No one really trusts anyone else in the Combine. If I was in some other line of work, I’d say give me friends who’ll watch my back and I’ll watch theirs. People I could trust.
Where would you like to live? Most people say the Inner Sectors but I like the frontier. Unfortunately the planet I’m stuck on is in the middle.
How would you like to die? In my bed, of old age. Not too likely! Maybe with a blaster in my hands, in the middle of a firefight, trying to save some innocent lives.

The story:
Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.

Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.

The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?

VS Note: This is the story of the sister who is mentioned in passing in Star Cruise: Stowaway, my story in the award winning PETS IN SPACE anthology. The new novel is completely standalone.

The Excerpt, from the scene where Conor sneaks Miriell out of her room and into the garden:
Touching her forehead to the rough bark, she closed her eyes and hummed one of the simpler hymns. It wouldn’t do to take too much from this place, to siphon so much energy that the living things who also needed lifeforce perished. The planet’s bounty felt so smooth and strong, flowing into her from the depths via through the tree’s extensive root system.

As if he’d read her thoughts, Conor said, “We probably can’t do this field trip twice, so you’d better take what you need, however you’re doing it.”

Her protest was instantaneous, instinctive. “I can’t overtax the garden. It’s well tended but fragile, in the middle of the cold city of stone and metal.”

“Even if it’s the difference between your own life or death?”

Deciding not to answer him, she changed to a different song and added words, keeping her voice soft.
When she finished, he said, “I have no idea what the lyrics meant, but the song was beautiful. I’ll take the private concert as fair trade for bringing you here.”

“A Combine lackey who appreciates alien music?” She made her voice scornful. Sinking to the grass, she leaned her back against the tree and stared through the canopy of rustling leaves at the starry sky. None of the constellations were familiar, of course. Her world lay in some faraway portion of the galaxy.

“What are you thinking?” he asked, voice quiet in the still night air.

“Nothing happy.” She gave voice to her memories.  “As Jareck said so dismissively at the spaceport earlier today, we didn’t even know we lived on what you call a planet until the evil ones swooped down from the cold stars, killing and capturing.” She ran her hand across the grass, tiny green sparks flying as her energy renewed. “No prophecy ever uttered in the temples foresaw this fate for me, or those taken with me.”

“Who attacked you?”

“Does it matter?” Her answer was bitter, but then she thought about his kindness in bringing her here and found no reason to withhold what little she knew. “I’ve been told they’re called the Shemdylann.”
“Heard of them. Fierce enemies. Why didn’t you use your powers on them? Fight back?”

She made a sound of disgust. “Our powers are ineffective against the creatures. No effect at all. And the invaders had weapons such as we’d never imagined. Blasters against crossbows and swords.” She choked back a sob. She never spoke of these things or allowed herself to remember—why was she answering his questions? Because he was kind to me, because the sound of his voice is so calming, because his touch—

Angry at herself, she abandoned the thought. “How did you come to be Amarotu?”

There was silence, broken only by the whisper of a slight breeze through the foliage.

“I used to be an elite soldier,” he said, voice tight. “Things happened. I was dishonorably discharged after spending time in the brig. The only place I could find work after Command threw me out of the service was as a Combine enforcer. I have the right…skill set, shall we say? Then I climbed the ranks beside Opherra and became her second-in-command when she took over the operations in this area.”

Her attention was caught. Something in his words didn’t ring true to her. With her refreshed and enhanced power, she probed deep into his aura and detected the dull rusty red of a lie. The tiny blue flames flickered. What is he lying about, and why would he bother lying to me?

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The strange inspiration that created the SkyRyder’s Series

by Liza O'Connor

The strange inspiration that created the SkyRyder’s Series

Early in my life, I became a private pilot. Then I took up skydiving and hang-gliding.

But oddly, the inspiration to create the SkyRyder stories came from a plastic grocery bag from ACME, no less. One windy day I noticed a shopping bag about a hundred feet up, flying as fast as the wind because it was fully deployed. And because the wind was blowing over a hill, the bag (and the wind) kept climbing higher until I lost sight of it. 

It made me ponder a whole bunch of what-ifs as I built an apocalyptic world in my head.

What if after a terrible world war, where all enemies attacked each other’s oil fields with atomic bombs, we no longer had access to fossil fuels.

What if these atomic bomb attacks created havoc with our winds, leaving us with stationary hurricanes that cover most of what is left of the Americas, while rising sea water consumes all lower lying areas.

What if traveling by sea between the continents is impossible due to massive high wind sea storms and constant seismic activity.

What if solar panels don’t work so well due to winds constantly blowing dust on them, thus massive wind mill farms become our salvation.

What if we could harness the power of our winds and use it to our travel advantage.

What if we create a light weight, but very strong windcatcher that has a large main chute that catches the wind and can carry a person across the skies at high speed. Of course, we would need to control the windcatcher, so we’ll need additional panels to provide lift and descent capabilities in winds from 50 to 200 miles. Let’s make all these panels from immensely strong, but incredibly lightweight material, so the massive catchers can be folded into a large backpack at the end of the flight.

If we do all this, then we can have SkyRyders protect the region that a stationary hurricane covers. Naturally, the rich will relocate to the eye of a hurricane, since that is the calmest area. The rest of the population will have to endure fifty-mile per hour winds at ground level.

There is one region, called Flat Land, which the surrounding mountains geographically prevents a hurricane from establishing itself and that is where the mega rich and powerful people live. And that is where my ‘worst ever debutante’ heroine lives. The only wind she has experienced is in a wind tunnel at the mall. Becoming adept in a wind tunnel has given her far better understandings of the complexity of wind, far more than any SkyRyder knows. So after she goes from debutante to street girl to scavenger, where she teaches herself to fly, then enters the SkyRyders, her flying abilities are par none. But can she teach those skills to others?

Stationed on opposite coasts, Alisha and Logan must each face their own demons and challenges. On the West Coast, Alisha loses her rank for butting heads with her General and soon discovers the life of a private can be utter hell. On the East Coast, newly promoted General Logan discovers his soldiers do not recognize his authority to command. In an effort to retake control of the East Coast Corps, Logan authorizes unthinkable actions. When Alisha faces a life-threatening crisis, will Logan rise above his own troubles or will she discover love and rescue with her best friend Jack?


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