Tag Archives: sci-fi

Win 7 YA Sci-fi books!

Love YA Sci-Fi?

As part of the 2016 Brain to Books Cyber Convention, I’ve teamed up with six fantastic sci-fi authors–N.K. Traver, Janine A. Southard, Jenny Martin, Susan Adrian, Shallee McArthur & Fonda Lee–to offer you the chance to win some awesome books!

The giveaway starts 12 am on 8 April and ends 11:59 pm on 10 April. To enter, simply choose one, two or all of the options below. The winner will be drawn at random and notified via email.

Sign up to be kept up-to-date about this and future giveaways.

Win 7 YA sci-fi novels, signed by the authors!
image-1487

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want more?

Don’t forget to check out my booth at the Brains to Books Cyber Convention for more awesome giveaways!

On space opera, YA and druids: an interview with Janine A. Southard

Queen & Commander by Janine A Southard
image-1405
Janine A. Southard is the author of the Hive Queen Saga, a sci-fi (space opera, to be exact) trilogy about a group of teenagers who steal (kinda) a spaceship and take off on the adventure of their lives.

If you haven’t read the first book, you can find out how to get a free copy of Queen & Commander at the end of the interview.

BELINDA: I love space opera, but as a genre it can be hard to define and often means different things to different people. Personally, I like to think of it as underdogs in space, sticking it to the universe. How do you like to think of space opera?

JANINE: I love space opera too! I think of it as fiction which is both set far enough in the future that the technology involved isn’t currently possible and also where the plot is more focused on the non-technological aspects.

Even though the tech is an important backdrop piece, it isn’t what a space opera story is about. For instance, a space opera mystery is about the whodunit, not figuring out how the robot serial killer gained its sentience.

Additionally, I think of space opera as an innately hopeful form. It presupposes that our current society has continued to improve technologically while also not imploding.

BELINDA: That’s a great way to think of it, and a nice break from the trend towards the dystopian, particularly in young adult (YA) fiction. Speaking of YA, your Hive Queen Saga is among the first in a new wave of YA space opera. Apart from those genres being awesome, what drew you to mashing them up?

JANINE: That is what drew me to mashing them up! I was really nervous about it during the writing phase because you didn’t see any young adult space opera at the time (now there’s a lot more). I wasn’t sure how it was going to do, but it was the book I wanted to write. So I did! It turns out to be popular enough that you’ve heard of me. (Phew!)

BELINDA: What do you think about the YA space opera you see today, is it the kind of thing you expect when you think ‘space opera’ or do you think YA is putting a unique spin on it?

JANINE: I haven’t actually seen a lot of new YA space opera yet. I mean, I love Beth Revis’ Across the Universe… and I just finished reading Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall, though the latter is more middle grade than young adult. Give me your recommendations?

BELINDA: I sure can! Earth GirlAvalon and These Broken Stars are some of my faves, but you can find a whole host of others here.
 
In the Hive Queen Saga, there’s a heavy emphasis on Welsh mythology. What inspired you to create an entire society based around it?

JANINE: Thank you! I’ve got a bunch of these in my reading queue now. Plus, hey, I’d already read about half of the first page.

Oh my gosh, the Welsh mythology. It was kind of an accident.

See, before I started writing, I knew I wanted to name a ship Ceridwen’s Cauldron for all its symbolism regarding inspiration (great for YA characters discovering themselves) and, y’know, being a bucket people could live in. I also knew that I wanted to rename said ship as Manawyddan’s Mousetrap for how the characters grow in the face of adversity.

So this meant two things: some characters had to know a bit of Welsh mythology and building a society cool with alliteration. (Note that the book titles all alliterate: Queen & CommanderHive & HeistReign & Revolution.)

It probably could have stopped there and just been one character’s quirk. However, when I was picking my favorite mathematics for an FTL drive, I found out that the physicist whose work I liked best had studied at the University of Cardiff. (Miguel Alcubierre. He’s Mexican and a wonderful physicist.)

That was too much coincidence for me. So I went for it.

I had a small medievalist background in Welsh otherworld literature already, which helped in making things up. Then I dove into the language, the current political climate, and (of course) druidry. Using all of this, I tried to picture what a future would be like where a Welsh colony was settled by the people who want a return to the old ways as they rebuild their national heritage.

It pretty much has nothing to do with modern politics or druidry at this point, but my Cymraeg language skills got better.

Aside: for book 3 (which comes out in a few months), I got to learn about all the different kinds of Welsh and Anglo-Welsh poetry. My new favorite poet may just be Gillian Clarke, who is the current National Poet of Wales.

BELINDA: Wow, I love that you chose the FTL you used based upon the mathematics, almost as much as the matriarchal/hive-based society that’s a feature of the series. What inspired you to create such a different society?

JANINE: I do get a bit nerdy about my science research. Never let someone tell you that space opera writers don’t care about science. (It’s more that so much doesn’t make it onto the page because they’re not necessary to the story. The things I have learned about modern neuroscience!)

As for the Queen-centric Hives, they’re a case of art imitating life through a cracked lens. I think everyone has noticed that large groups of friends tend to have a leader, right? That’s just the way things are.

But when I was a college freshman, I noticed something else: a bunch of smart guys will all form an interest in the same young woman. There’s no set criteria to which woman they pick, and it’s clearly a case of “she’s so cool” rather than “let’s all agree to go after the same person.”

So I wanted to combine these things: an informal group leader with a lady people followed out of love as well as admiration. Thus, the basics of the Hive system were born.

After creating that base plan, I worked in some more sensible structures, read up on the court of Elizabeth Regina I, and added the standardized testing angle (which I’d previously made the focus of another book that hadn’t worked out).

With each book in the series, I send my characters off to another society, which is also fun for me. Yes, Book 1 was all Hives of future Wales, but Book 2 did an American Frontier space station, and Book 3 is set largely on a Chinese (mainland-descended) research lab. I had a blast deciding the right things to futurize.

BELINDA: That’s a great observation about the formation of friendship groups. I’m going to have to research that myself and no doubt tuck it away in the creative compost heap where I keep my worldbuilding ideas 🙂 

Do you have a particular method you use when building your worlds?

JANINE: Well, I usually start with a fairly strong idea for some part the story setting. Sometimes that’s a general sense of space and time; others, a particular aspect of society (such as theatre actors). To take it deeper, past that initial idea, I like those lists of questions that you see everywhere. The list makers always come up with something that would not have occurred to me. At the moment, my favorite list comes from Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland. It has great questions like “What kind of clothes are in style?” and “What historical epochs have shaped society?”

Actually, I recommend this book to any writer who doesn’t yet have an outlining method. The exercises are great!

BELINDA: When does the research come into it, and how do you keep track of all the data you collect?

JANINE: Research is a strange beast. For a novel that’s been percolating for a while before I even start outlining it, I’ll have done a bunch of “unofficial” research until I have a strong sense of something that’ll go into a story.

During my outlining phase (3-6 weeks usually), I’ll go deeper. Often my research will inform my final outline by integrating with the plot. What does the tech have to do? How does society work? The novel has to make sense in a larger context.

Anything relevant goes into the outline. (I’m a die-hard outliner. My latest novel has 35k words of outline.) For instance, I can copy a quote from a neuroscience article into my worldbuilding section, or include a photo with a link under it.

Some stuff, though, is less easy to describe. For instance, we talked about Welsh mythology earlier. Yes, I let modern druidry inform my version of future druidry, but they are emphatically not the same. So I’ll listen to the DruidCast podcast while I walk, and that will end up flavoring my stories but isn’t directly documented. Alternatively, I have a character who translates idioms from his own language, and I don’t document those at all other than the fact that he does it (so I can look up an appropriate saying from a “learn to speak” book or website as needed).

After a draft is complete, I’ll do a bunch of passive research while it’s out with beta readers and my editor. That way when someone says “I want more about X,” I’ve got a stronger foundation. I’m really horrible about documenting stuff that comes in during the editing phase though.

BELINDA: You’re releasing the third book in the Hive Queen Saga this year, do you plan to write any more stories in the series or will you be starting on a new project?

JANINE: Reign & Revolution wraps up the current story arc, which still leaves a lot of room in the Hive Queen universe! I currently have lots of plans for shorter fiction there. I’m very excited about doing alternate universe novellas, for instance. (I might have planned out the AU of book three before even outlining R&R.) Plus, I’m intending multiple origin stories for how the sentient robot has gained sentience over the years; the first of these is already available: “The Robot Who Stole Herself.”

But I’m definitely taking a short break from these for a while. My next two expected projects are

  1. A 7-part novelette series about Victorian Vampire Vice Cops. Episode one is already written (though not available yet) and entitled “The Death of Sloth.” I see it as sort of a Sherlock Holmes and Matt Helm pastiche starring Ada Lovelace and her vampire great-great-great-grandfather.
  2. A medieval quest fantasy “done backwards” that I’ve been working on for, oh, a decade, which is almost ready to see the light of day. It takes every point of order that belongs in a book of this type and twists it. The blond farm boy? Actually a manipulative villain. The mercenary with a heart of gold? Actually a sadist. The dragon the villagers defeat? Just grandstanding.

About Janine A. Southard

Janine A. Southard
image-1406
Janine A. Southard is the IPPY award-winning author of Queen & Commander (and other books in The Hive Queen Saga). She lives in Seattle, WA, where she writes speculative fiction novels, novellas, and short stories… and reads them aloud to her cat.

All Janine’s books so far have been possible because of crowdsourced funds via Kickstarter. She owes great thanks to her many patrons of the arts who love a good science fiction adventure and believe in her ability to make that happen.

Right now, get Queen & Commander as a free ebook when you sign up for Janine A. Southard’s newsletter. The newsletter will keep you current on things like her latest release dates (and fun news like when her next Kickstarter project is coming). Usually, this is once a month or so, but sometimes goes longer or shorter. Your address will never be shared, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Plus: free ebook!

You can hang out with Janine online where she’s crazy about twitter (@jani_s) and periodically updates her website with free fiction and novel inspirations (www.janinesouthard.com).

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

3 Star Trek films you never knew existed (probably)

Star Trek: Axanar (trailer)

This trailer is totally awesome and I am sooooo watching the film when it’s released. Also, don’t miss out on the Prelude to Axanar short, also on YouTube.

Star Trek: Axanar is coming out some time next year (2016).

Star Trek: Horizon (opening scene)

Star Trek: Horizon is a full length fan film set it the Enterprise era (think Scott Bakula as Captain Archer). To be perfectly honest, I can’t say I really like the Star Trek: Horizon trailer but the opening scene makes up for it. Alas, Horizon is another one we have to wait for, but only until February next year (2016).

Star Trek: Aurora

Ok, so it’s not a movie, but it’s still really good, so check it out.

And now, for something a little different…

…the Star Wars: Dark Resurrection Vol. 0 trailer. It’s an Italian-made fan film (in Italian, but there are English subtitles), and it looks really good. There’s also a Vol. 1 and funding is currently being raised for Vol. 2, so we won’t be left on a cliffhanger.

Riviera Film, the filmmakers behind it, have a number of other great sci-fi films on their YouTube channel. If you like Dark Resurrection don’t forget to check it out!

Want more awesome free videos? Join the mailing list!

Giveaway! Athena's Ashes by Jamie Grey

Athena's Ashes Book Blitz
image-1052

Another book to add to my exploding book pile! At this rate, I’m never going to get any writing done. I think I need a TARDIS, anyone got one spare?

Excerpt

Renna sat at the small round table in her room, reading through the data Dallas had sent to her tablet. She took another sip of scorching coffee and held the liquid in her mouth for a fraction of a second—until her tongue started to burn—before swallowing. Sometime in the past few days, she’d started doing stuff like that, letting herself experience feelings she’d normally ignore. Like each time might be her last. Continue reading

A world-building template for when you're on the go

World-building on my iPad
image-944
Just whip out the iPad and get world-building, while you wait for you morning hot chocolate.

Patricia C. Wrede’s Fantasy World-building questions are great, and the World-building Leviathan is equally awesome, but there are times when they just don’t hit the spot. Like, when you’re halfway (or more) into your novel and you need to sort out what a battle mage can do that an illusionist can’t.

Sure, you can jot down a few notes and whack them into a notebook, but if, like me, you can’t stand the thought of not being organised, something a little more structured is in order.

Normally, I’d turn to Scrivener, but, until the iPad version comes out, it doesn’t work so well on-the-go. Yes, you can sync your files to an external folder and edit them on the iPad (which works great for writing), but whatever file structure you’ve created in Scrivener is lost, and when I’m world-building I need folders, and not just any folders, but nested folders and lots of them.

And so, I set out to make myself a template in which I could make random notes, while still being organised, and that I could use just as easily from my laptop as my iPad. Continue reading

The Thursday Trail – A look at the future

I feel like the rabbit from Wonderland, running around yelling “I’m late, I’m late I’m late!” However, I feel just like myself when I say, I was distracted by a book, revisions to be exact, which is why my first contribution to the Thursday Trail (hosted by Hollywood the Write Way), A Look at the Future, is just a tinsy bit late (if for tinsy, you substitute something the size of the Death Star).

My look at the future involves not just looking forward, but taking a few glances back, because while technology advances faster and faster, we don’t. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday – Bookish goals for 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the good people at the Broke and the Bookish.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the good people at the Broke and the Bookish.

For this round of Top Ten Tuesday, I’m breaking my list up into two sections. The first section is for this year’s writing-related goals and the second are my reading-related goals.

Writing goals

  1. I completed the first draft of my first book, Hero, just after Christmas, so I think it’s only fair if I have a completed manuscript by the end of 2013 (if not before).
  2. Comprehensively outline book two (working title, Skin) in the Jorn trilogy.
  3. A-little-more-than-roughly outline book three (working title, Native).
  4. Come up with an appropriate title for the series. I almost like The Jorn Chronicles, but only almost.

Reading goals

Here, you may note that a number of my goals include some of last week’s to-read list, as well as a few other challenges. This is not cheating, it’s just good common sense. Promise.

  1. Read 11 books by female Aussie authors for the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge.
  2. Read at least a book a week, and 60 within the year, for the Goodreads challenge.
  3. Read more books from outside of science fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy.
  4. Read all of the ebooks I’ve bought and not read (there are many).
  5. Read On Writing and Story.
  6. Reduce the number of books in my TBR pile by 10%, which, as of today, stands at 240. Here’s my hit list for 2013.

Anyone else want to commit to reading 10% of their TBR pile this year?

10 books I'm going to read in 2013, promise

Top Ten Tuesday
Hosted by the Broke and Bookish

This year I’m participating in a few memes and the very first one is Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish (which is a great blog title!).

Aptly, the first Top Ten for the year is the Top 10 books I’m going to read this year. In this I’ve sprinkled some of the books I also have listed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge (AWWC) 2013. The AWWC is about raising the profile of female authors in Australia, because always seems as if the men win all the literary prizes.

Continue reading

Meet Hero

Meet Hero, the star of Hero-Fink, a novel set in the far distant future, on a far distant world.

Hero Regan
image-338
Hero Regan

Hero Regan is special, and not in a way she likes. She hears voices, the kind of voices that other people can’t hear. Ever since she can remember, she’s been forced to take meds and prodded by shrinks and doctors, all of whom say the same thing. She’s sick, crazy even; but they’re lying.

Her parents have her completely isolated from the outside world, wrapped in a cocoon of butlers, bodyguards and tutors. Her only solace is Fink, a six-hundred-kilogram, genetically engineered rat-pard. Together they create havoc, sharing lives, thoughts, triple-chocolate marshmallow ice-cream and the same burning desire for freedom.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is my first attempt at a book review. Let me know how you think I went.

The cover of "Cinder" by Marissa Meyer
The cover of "Cinder" by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, the first book in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, is a retelling of the classic Cinderella story complete with cyborgs, plague and a tantalising hint of the Japanese anime Sailor Moon.

Synopsis

Cinder is a cyborg, an orphan with no memory of her past and a collection of gears and wires were an arm and a leg should be. Her adoptive mother resents her, tolerating her only because of her ability to draw a wage, one of her two sisters hates her and the other, who’s actually nice, becomes fatally ill. All of this leads to Cinder being forcibly volunteered as a test subject for plague research where she uncovers her past and discovers hidden talents.

There’s also a prince with a broken android, a lunatic queen, a ball, a fairy god-scientist and a small prosthetic foot.
Continue reading