All posts by Belinda Crawford

Aussie YA Secret Santa Blog Hop

Aussie YA Bloggers Secret Santa Blog Hop
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This year I’ve joined in on an awesome Secret Santa and blog hop run by Aussie YA Bloggers. I’m super exicted to be included because, well…who doesn’t like recieving books in the mail! Plus, there’s the wrapping and I looooove wrapping things.

What are your top 5 favourite books this year?

A lot of what I read this year falls under the category of ‘brain candy’, but there were a few standout reads.

  1. Magic Bites by Illona Andrews was fantastic. I started off reading expecting an bog standard urban fantasy and was delighted when it turned out to be anything but.
  2. Starship’s Mage by Glynn Stewart. I loved the way Stewart blended magic and real world physics that make a future world that almost seemed possible.
  3. Dead in the Water by Hailey Edwards is another urban fantasy that surprised me. It wasn’t all about the romance, which was refreshing, and it was really well written.
  4. Grave Visions by Kalayna Price. I was hanging out for this book for three years and I was not disappointed! It’s one of the few series I read as ebooks but would consider getting the paperbacks as well, just because.
  5. The Mayfair Moon by JA Redmerski. I finally got to read this one! It wasn’t available for about a year while it Redmerski was having it reedited and for all of that time I haunted Amazon, checking to see when it would be available again.

What are your top 5 favourite Aussie YA books this year?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t read a lot of Australian fiction this year, although what I did read was great and it was YA.

  1. UnEarthed by Rebecca Bloomer is a sci-fi set on Mars. It’s great and has a nice twist on the typical teen romance. My only niggle is that it’s too short! I want more.
  2. Asena Blessed by Tracy M Joyce. Awesome epic fantasy with wolves, magic and women who kick butt. ‘Nuff said.

How did you go with your Goodreads challenge?

Not so well. This year I upped my goal to 70 books, which, a few years ago wouldn’t have been a problem, but ever since I started writing full-time I just don’t read as much. This year, I’ll be lucky to read 60.

What is your favourite blogging moment of 2016?

My antiheroine interview series! I love antiheroines (heroines who subvert the traits of the classic hero) and I just don’t think that there are enough of them out there. Sure, we have a heap of antiheroes such as Sherlock, Ironman and Han Solo, but you have to search harder for their female counterparts.

Interviewing other authors about why they’ve chosen to write antiheroines, what makes a good one and how they contribute to the reading culture was a lot of fun.

What are your blogging goals for 2017?

To blog more consistently. I’m planning on doing more interviews with authors and readers about select topics, such as what makes a strong female character, racial diversity in fiction and representations of the disabled. Really, any topic that I think we can learn something new about.

What books are you looking forward to in 2017?

  1. Grave Ransom by Kalayna Price
  2. The Aztlanian by Brandon Sanderson
  3. The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

What is your favourite thing about the Aussie YA community?

Everyone is so friendly that I don’t feel weird about taking part in events even though I’m not a dedicated blogger (yet  I’m working on it). Plus, any community that runs a Secret Santa has to be awesome!

Leave 3 clues for your santee below!

  1. You thumped your Goodreads challenge twice over
  2. Your Goodreads shelves have funny, descriptive titles
  3. Your pet’s name rhymes with ‘jaw’

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog hop!



Featured image courtesy of SimplyPanda. Used with a Creative Commons license.

It’s a Giveaway + Get 25% off!

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, and to get into the spirit of things, I’m hosting a giveaway! PLUS I’m giving every new mailing list subscriber 25% off any purchase in my store!


What am I giving away?

My box of awesome Christmas goodies, including jelly beans, brain teasers, bookmarks and fans.
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That’s a great question. Each week from now until Santa makes his midnight run, I’m going to be sending one awesome person a random present from my special box of goodies.

There are some pretty cool things in there, including:

  • Hero mugs
  • Astronaut USB lights
  • USB thumb drives, shaped like an actual thumb
  • Pens, both sparkly and syringe-shaped
  • Bookmarks

All you have to do to enter is join the newsletter, and open each week’s email to go into the draw. Pretty easy, huh?

To make it even better, I have an extra special Christmas surprise for all of my subscribers! But you have to wait until Christmas.

Enter the Giveaway & get your 25% discount!


6 awesome space operas books, all free

Space opera, it’s my favourite subgenre. I love how big the universe is, how spaceships can zip to and fro, with warp drives, hyperdrives and jump gates. But mostly I love the drama of it, how a single person (or a few persons) can save the universe. Inevitably, someone important dies along the way, but that just adds to the tension and that slightly breathless feeling you get as story draws to its conclusion.

If you haven’t read space opera before but want to give it a try, and even if you’re a hard core fan, below are few free space operas to get you started.

The Course of Empire (Course of Empire 1)

The Course of Empire by Eric Flint and KD Wentworth
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Would they destroy earth in order to save it?

Conquered by the Jao twenty years ago, the Earth is shackled under alien tyranny—and threatened by the even more dangerous Ekhat, who are sending a genocidal extermination fleet to the solar system. Humanity’s only chance rests with an unusual pair of allies: a young Jao prince, newly arrived to Terra to assume his duties, and a young human woman brought up amongst the Jao occupiers.

But both are under pressure from the opposing forces—a cruel Jao viceroy on one side, determined to drown all opposition in blood; a reckless human resistance on the other, perfectly prepared to shed it. Added to the mix is the fact that only by adopting some portions of human technology and using human sepoy troops can the haughty Jao hope to defeat the oncoming Ekhat attack—and then only by fighting the battle within the Sun itself.

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au

Caretaker (Caretaker Chronicles 1)

Caretaker by Josi Russell
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Fifty years in space—alone.

Ethan Bryant was supposed to fall asleep on a ship leaving Earth and wake up fifty years later with his family on the planet Minea. Instead, after the ship’s caretaker—the lone human in charge of monitoring the ship’s vital systems—suddenly died, the ship’s computer locked Ethan out of his stasis chamber and gave him the job. That was five years ago. Five years of checking to make sure everything runs smoothly on a ship Ethan knows almost nothing about.

Who wouldn’t dread the years ahead? Who wouldn’t long for their once-bright future now stolen away?

Ethan is resigned to his fate, until the ship suddenly wakes up another passenger: a beautiful engineer who, along with Ethan, soon discovers a horrible secret—a navigation room hidden from even the ship’s computer. The ship is not bound for Minea—but to somewhere far more dangerous.

With the ship nearing its sinister destination, Ethan soon learns he is the only one who holds the key to saving all 4,000 passengers from a highly-advanced, hostile alien race.

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au

Alien Hunters (Alien Hunters 1)

Alien Hunters by Daniel Arenson
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The skelkrins. Predators from deep space. Creatures of claws, fangs, and unending malice. They swarm across the galaxy, slaying all in their path. Planets burn in their wake. And now they’re heading to Earth.

Raphael “Riff” Starfire commands the Alien Hunters, a group of scruffy mercenaries. Galactic pest controllers, they mostly handle small critters–aliens that clog up your engine pipes, gnaw on your hull, or burrow through your silos.

Riff and his crew have never faced anything like the skelkrins before. As these cosmic killers invade our solar system, will Riff be the one hunting aliens…or will aliens hunt him?

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Kobo

Bane of the Dead (Seraphim Revival 1)

Bane of the Dead by Jacob Holo
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In an empire ruled by the honored dead, seraphs are the ultimate weapons. Fueled by the pilot’s very soul, these colossal humanoid war machines are unstoppable in battle. Only a few possess the gift to control such craft, and those men and women are prized above all others.

Jack Donolon is the most powerful pilot in existence, a hero of Earth with a mind fractured by his seraph. On the far side of the galaxy, he uncovers a terrible truth about the seraphs and their pilots. Now he must return on a mission no one will understand, to face and kill the people who once called him friend and comrade.

But the death he will bring is insignificant next to the destruction that will follow, should he fail…

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Kobo

Dark Expanse (Bright Beyond prequel)

Dark Expanse by Theresa Kay
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In a world of military space stations, planetary jumps and alien offensives, nineteen-year-old Eva Braebel’s life has never been easy. She’s small. She’s female. And she earned the ire of a powerful General at a young age. With hard work and the support of her friends, she achieves more than she ever dreamed possible: A position as flight squadron leader and the man who she loves by her side.

Eva just got everything she’s ever wanted, but how long can she keep it?

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Kobo

Axira Episode One (Galactic Coalition Academy)

Axira Episode One by Odette C Bell
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She is different. Powerful. A solider of centuries.

For 450 years she was enslaved to one of the masters of the Kore sects. She was forced to fight in endless battles. War, destruction, desolation–all wrought by her.

But then she escapes. Seeking revenge on her master, she turns to the only group powerful enough to help her–the Coalition.

She joins the Academy. It should be easy. It isn’t. She rapidly finds out that despite her raw power, she needs more to become an effective recruit.

But now is not the time for failure. There is a spy on Academy grounds–a spy who is tearing the Coalition’s intelligence to shreds. She finds herself drawn into the hunt. A hunt she will not lose. For she is Axira, the most powerful spacer in the Milky Way…

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Kobo

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Feature image courtesy of Bill Lile via Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons license.

Triple Chocolate Marshmallow Ice-cream

Many people have asked me where they can find the triple chocolate marshmallow ice-cream mentioned in Hero. It’s one of Fink’s favourite deserts and lots of fun to make, just try not to make too much of a mess in the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 2 litres chocolate ice-cream
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows

You will need

  •  A large bowl, preferably metal but glass will work as well

Directions

  1. Place the bowl in the freezer and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. If you’re not using mini marshmallows, cut them into quarters. Likewise, if you aren’t using chocolate chips, chop the chocolate into small pieces. Do this before proceeding to the next step.
  3. Once the bowl has been in the freezer for 30 minutes, take the ice-cream out of the freezer (but leave the bowl in the freezer) and let it soften for 5-10 minutes, or until the ice-cream is soft enough to scoop out easily.
  4. Working quickly, take the bowl out of the freezer and scoop ALL of the ice-cream into it. Keep the ice-cream container.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and marshmallows to the ice-cream and stir through. Do not over-stir the ice-cream.
  6. Put the ice-cream back into its original container, replace the lid and put it back in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Done. Enjoy!

Notes

If you can’t find chocolate chips or mini marshmallows, get regular chocolate and marshmallows and chop them up as directed in step 2.

 

 

Strange and peculiar things: An interview with Amie Irene Winters

Amie Irene Winters is the author of Strange Luck, a fantasy series about a girl named Daisy and a secret realm that built on stolen memories.

BELINDA: You’ve just released the second book in your Strange Luck series, The Nightmare Birds, tell us a little about the heroine, Daisy.

AMIE: Daisy is one strong and cynical chick, but she also has a kind heart. She possesses the unique ability to create and destroy worlds, but that’s not all. There’s a dark reason why she is able to do these things, and only when she accepts who she really is will she be able to defeat the Order of The Nightmare Birds.

BELINDA: I love the Theatre of Secrets. What inspired it?

AMIE: Thank you! It was a lot of fun to write about the mysterious Theater of Secrets. I’ve always loved the concept of the supernatural creeping into the real world, especially stories with dark magic and unseen monsters (I’m a big H.P. Lovecraft fan). A mythic circus operating beneath a bustling city seemed like the perfect setting to invite strange and peculiar things.

BELINDA: Tell us a little about the Nameless.

The cover of Nightmare Birds, book two in the Strange Luck series by Amie Irene Winters
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AMIE: The Nameless in a beautiful and dangerous world built using stolen memories. The memories are collected by a dark entity who is in search of the perfect memory. All of its residents, called Collectives, were lured there using a variety of tactics. Vain people can be lured with a map to the Fountain of Youth. People who love space or exploration might be lured under the pretense that the map is a wormhole to another galaxy. Daisy fell into the Nameless’ trap in search of immortality in hopes of saving her ailing father. The terrain and everything in the world are based upon other people’s memories, so you’ll find everything from famous wizards in fairytales to talking stuffed animals all looking to escape while retaining their memories before they are stolen.

BELINDA: What’s your worldbuilding process like?

AMIE: After coming up with a general idea for a world/other realm, I look at how it got to be that way. This really helps to fill in the backstory and develop a richer history of the world’s existence. Then, I work in all of the good and bad things in the world which can be used to help and hinder the characters. The rest I leave up to free flowing. I try not to plan things too tightly so that they may change, develop, and grow. I might go into writing with a specific idea about the world and as I’m writing think of something that works much better.

BELINDA: What sort of things do other authors in their worldbuilding that bug you?

AMIE: I think creativity and originality is most important, then planning the logistics. I think a lot of authors do this backwards and spend all of their time planning magical rules and scenarios, but not focusing on the imagination/fantasy part of it. I honestly get bored reading a book that’s all rules and no imagination.

BELINDA: What books do you think are examples of great worldbuilding?

AMIE: Harry Potter and The Neverending Story are my favorites. When you feel like you are completely and totally there, the author has succeeded in immersing you in the world they’ve created—in a world you don’t want to leave.

BELINDA: How many more installments are there in the Strange Luck series?

AMIE: There will be four books total, including a prequel. My newest book, The Nightmare Birds, is the second book in the series. I’m currently working on Book III.

BELINDA: Can you give us any hints about what’s to come?

AIME: There will be lots more dark magic and strange things creeping into the light. Stay tuned for details.

About Amie Irene Winters

Amie Irene Winters, author of the Strange Luck Series.
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As an environmental conservationist, Amie Irene Winters has had a lot of unique experiences—from participating in archaeological digs and camping solo in the Rocky Mountains, to writing grants and designing natural history museum exhibits—but writing fiction has always been her passion. 
She’s the award-winning author of the Strange Luck series. 

Originally from California, Amie has lived in every region of the U.S., and currently resides in a small town in western Pennsylvania. She loves hiking, traveling, baking desserts, and spontaneous adventures.

You can connect with Amie via her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and buy her books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-MillionBook Depository and Kobo.

Image courtesy of Crisco Photography (via Flickr) used under a Creative Commons license.

Wild, Tough and Cheeky: Carolyn Gilpin on Antiheroines

Carolyn is the author of Facing Up a story about a girl trying to pick up the pieces of her life after a car crash ruins her life.

BELINDA: Tell us about Carly, what makes her an antiheroine?

CAROLYN: Carly is an antiheroine because she is cynical, prickly, quick-tempered, stubborn, impatient with her family and pretty much most of society. She is rebellious and smokes and tends to stir trouble rather than smooth things over. But she is also tough, fiercely loyal to her friends, and suffers from inner guilt about the innocent person killed in the car accident which she and her friends caused while joyriding. This is one of the main causes of her issues, and she eventually finds a way to atone for this. Continue reading

Worldbuilding and Game Design: an interview with Diana Pinguicha

Diana Pinguicha is a woman of many talents not least of which include designing games and writing books.

BELINDA: Tell us about your book. What’s it about and what kind of audience would it appeal to?

DIANA: The Fantasy novel I currently have on submission is called A Trace of Madness (I call it ATOM, for short). It’s about a mind witch (essentially someone who manipulates minds) who’s sent to a neighboring country to plant the seeds for an invasion. There’s lots of magic, an insane girl, and bad decisions—it’d appeal to YA fantasy readers, as well as older ones, since it has crossover potential.

BELINDA: What inspired the world behind your story?

DIANA: Normally, when I read books based on European cultures, it’d always be more French/English/Hungary, and so on and so forth. I never found many books whose culture had been inspired by Portugal, so I used my own roots to shape the world in ATOM. It’s actually funny, because I have my main character doing things like eating tomato jam, and a lot of people asked me if it was a real thing—it is, and it’s delicious.

BELINDA: You’re a game designer, has that influenced the way you’ve built your world?

DIANA: Definitely. Before I started designing games, the worldbuilding would be pretty much as I went. There would be a lot of conflicts, and fixing them took a lot of time. However, as soon as I started my Master’s (which was heavily based on game design and programming), I realized it’d be much simpler to create an entire world first. So now I start with the world, the culture, the belief, and then, after I’ve shaped all I need to, I start on the story.

BELINDA: How does designing a game differ from writing a book?

DIANA: A lot. You have to consider a different array of things when you’re designing (and writing!) a game that you don’t in a book. For instance, you need to accommodate a player’s choices, and write outcomes for every different one—visual novels, for instance, do this, and it’s like having five different books that share the same beginning but different endings. It’s almost like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, but trickier, because you also need to consider interaction, interface, and so on.

Another aspect is the way you present your story to the player. In books, people are expecting to read a lot, but if you do that in a game, well… One of the biggest complaints I had for Sightless (a novel which I made a game prototype for) was that it had too much text. Since the game was more of a visual novel-meets-puzzle, it didn’t bother me much, but it’s something I need to be careful with on my job: you need to know how to balance information and gameplay, otherwise your players will get bored and give up. Similarly, one of my favorite games ever, Planescape: Torment, suffered from the same criticism: too much text, which possibly led to low sales when it was first released (but it was such a great game it’s found a lot of love after).

Bottom line is, when you write a book, you control everything the reader will see and know through your characters. In a game, the player can do what they please, and you need to find ways to support such freedom. You also have to be more careful in balancing play time with story exposition in a game, whereas in a book, there’s more leniency because, well… readers like to read. Gamers? Many do, but not the majority.

BELINDA: Do you have a particular worldbuilding process you follow?

DIANA: I always pick a culture I want to base myself on, then build from there. For instance, since I picked Portugal for ATOM, a lot of things are very Portuguese. Everyone loves to eat, and eat well, and they kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting (I do this on instinct and people think it’s weird, but it’s not! It’s just how I was raised, I promise!) Houses are big and mostly in white stone to prevent the flood of miserable heat, and a lot of people are loud—which, if you’ve met me, you know it’s mostly true.

I pick a climate (in this case, I chose to stay true and have it be hellish hot from March to November), then move onto politics—is it a Democracy? A Kingdom? An Empire? Once that’s picked, I pick the rest of the social structure (if it’s a caste system, a merit system, etc), then religion and beliefs, and so on.

I then draw a map, see what other countries I need, and do the same for them. If there are different races at play, I start working on them, their customs, what sets them apart, etc. Once the world is set, I start writing!

BELINDA: What are the things that other authors do, or have done, that really tick you off in regards to worldbuilding?

DIANA: When people do all these different alien races and they’re somehow all humanoids. Also, when there’s absolutely no fleshing out of a culture, and your character just lives in this flat world with no personality whatsoever.

BELINDA: What are some of your favourite examples of great worldbuilding?

DIANA: Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is a work of pure genius. Even if his prose isn’t your style, his worldbuilding and magic system is phenomenal, and I recommend it to everyone. Tolkien, obviously, and JK Rowling. Juliet Marillier is bright example of taking something that exists, and building up on it to perfection—all her books feel real, like those legends could’ve really happened. Kate Elliot has terrific worlds through and through in all her different series, and all of them feel alive, and real. Last but not least, Susan Dennard, who not only has amazing advice on her blog, did an amazing job with bringing her Witchlands to life.

BELINDA: Do you have any worldbuilding tips?

DIANA: Do it at the very beginning, and don’t hack it together as you do. Research the cultures you’re inspired by so you know almost all there is to know about them, from who rules the land to where do women keep her monthly supplies for when the red sea strikes! And, for your own sanity, keep it all in the same folder and put it on Dropbox, because Jesus saves, but we need to back up!

About Diana Pinguicha

Diana Pinguicha Connors
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A Computer Engineering graduate, Diana is a game designer for serious games, an illustrator, and a Fantasy writer. Born and bred in Portugal, she lives in Lisbon, where she tries not to melt under the sun. Keeping her company are her two cats, Sushi and Jubas, and the bearded dragon Norbert. Together with three colleagues, she made a small game out of one of her novels, and it was the runner up for 2014 SINFO’s Innovation Awards.

You can connect with Diana via her blog, DeviantArt, Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads.

 

Feature image courtesy of wiredforlego.

Going Her Own Way: LG Surgeson on Antiheroines

LG Surgeson is the author of the fantasy adventure series The Black River Chronicles, including the short story Clara’s Buttons.

BELINDA: Tell us about Clara, what makes her an antiheroine?

LG: Clara grew up on the dirty streets of Aberddu (pronounced Aber-thee) city. She was orphaned during the Summer of Fire, and left picking over the rubble of destroyed temple. She was found by Iona Pringle, a local adventurer, who took a certain amount of pity on the young Clara. She hosed her down, fed her and handed her over to the Guild Below–an organisation famous for its skills in thievery, among other things.

The Guild took her in and trained her in some of their trade mark skills; pick-pocketing, appraising items, forgery, and general thievery. It was in the guild that she met Min, Luce & Angel the other members of her gang and between the four of them they set about making a living by mugging rich people.

Irrepressible is the best way to describe Clara, nothing keeps her down for long. She’s had knock after knock, but she always bounces back. She doesn’t take anything or anyone seriously and she’s not afraid of breaking the law. Clara is a petty criminal who will lie and cheat to keep her head above water. She is loyal to handful of people, but she would still push them out of the way to get the last crumbs in the pie-tray. Continue reading

The Worldbuilding Leviathan goes Spanish!

I love how many people have discovered the Worldbuilding Leviathan and I’m always quite chuffed (and just a little bit amazed) whenever someone drops me a line to tell me how useful they’ve found the template.

One such person was Juan de la Cruz, who asked me if he could translate it into Spanish. I said ‘of course!’ and last December an amazing Spanish version of the Leviathan landed in my inbox.

I do have to apologise to Juan for taking so long to upload the translated template, but now here it is for all the world to enjoy!

The template