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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Unexpected Q&A: LIEBSTERS, late but loved

Hello, hello! 

Well, I thought I'd sneak in at least one last post before the year slips away from us. Of course, I'm tragically behind on here, but you haven't seen the last of me. 'Tis the time for silly things, though, so I'm going to post the Liebster Q&As I've been putting off. 

Liebster blog nominations
I was nominated for this by Shannon McRoberts @Obsidianpoet on shannonmcroberts.com, Caster Rowe @CasterRowe on http://dreamsofalchemy.blogspot.com, and John Dolan of http://johndolanwriter.blogspot.ca/
About Liebster:

The Liebster Blog Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. “Liebster” is German for “Beloved, Dearest or Favorite”. All of the images are from the internet. 

The Rules:

When one receives the award, one posts 11 random facts about oneself and answers the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure one notifies the blogger that one nominated them!). One writes up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees. One is not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated one’s own blog! One pastes the award picture into ones blog. (You can Google the image, there are plenty of them!).
  
I am going to cheat a bit, and nominate a huge batch of new people with only 11 questions. Also, I will post my random facts once, rather than setting up 11 facts three times over. I could probably give you 11 random facts, but they would get progressively weirder and probably make people run away screaming. I will, however, answer all of the questions the authors gave me. So: Without further ado, my Liebsters!


11 Random Facts:

1) Almost of my favorite foods used to be things I hated to eat as a child. Mushrooms, tomatoes, cinnamon, dark chocolate, scrambled eggs…

2)  I am left-handed and a bit ambidextrous; I can write with both hands. Also, I can write BACKWARDS with both hands in cursive. (Not that well with the right though.)

3)  I have tested this officially, by the way—I’ve got synaesthesia, a slightly rare but not totally uncommon neural condition that involves mixing the senses. Some smells have colours, and music very frequently has color as well. I love my synaesthesia and it has grown and developed in other areas through being focused on. I do sometimes get irritable when ‘letters are the wrong colour’ or ‘things are a different colour than they smell’. I also can’t stand most automatic music rendering programs, because the colours and patterns they use look utterly wrong to me.

4)  I love writing about the end of the world, but I like to skew my worlds towards letting the plants and animals get their revenge on us. I do eat meat, but I’m pretty strongly on the side of environmental conservatism. I try to keep up with the news on global climate change and other ecological disruptions as well.

5)  My partner and I have a cat named Maxwell, who is a Jellicle cat and definitely a clever little beast. He can open doors, measures his jumps, hides things, and has learned to mimic a few words. We reckon he’s either part Siamese or part demon.

6) I can wiggle my ears and twitch my nose like Samantha in Bewitched. Also, I can curl the tip of my tongue into the shape of a w.

7)  I’m fairly fluent in geekery and know far more about Star Wars, H.P Lovecraft, and Warhammer 40K than is probably sane.  If you get me started on talking about books, I’ll probably only stop when I run out of breath.

8)  I’ve been writing since I was 13, which means that I’ve been a writer for ten years now.

9) I wanted to publish for I turned 18 so I could be a prodigy. Since then I’ve learned that the only real sure-fire way to gain cachet is a) work hard, b) be friendly and gracious, and c) most importantly, write the best damn books around.

10)  I absolutely love Leonard Cohen’s music and it often brings me to tears.

11)  I can’t stand the sensation of my fingernails on unglazed china.


Questions for me:




From Shannon: 

1)  Pepperoni, Ham, or Bologna?

None. Prosciutto. Om nom nom. Delicious Italian ham.

2)  What are you current working on that isn't top secret?

“The Loved, The Lost, The Dreaming”, my third book, is an anthology of short stories and will also include a couple of longer works. It’s probably going to include a novella as well, but said novella is blossoming into something enormous and I’m really hoping it won’t mutate into a novel. If it does, well, I’ll just have to continue this 10,000 words in four days thing.

3)  Any promotions going on now?

Yes! My novel, “And the Stars Will Sing”, is free on Kindle from Dec 6- to Dec 10. Download it here!
“The Stolen: Two Short Stories” is also on sale for 0.99, so grab that while you’re at it!

4)  What is your favorite TV show?
I only really watch things on Netflix, but the answer is probably ‘Farscape’, closely followed by ‘Community’. I liked CSI Vegas and Law & Order (original) but then they went into rerun mode. I also adore cartoons.

5)  Do you believe the American dream is a white picket fence and 2.5 kids?
In a word, no. I’m bi, poly, and I’ve seen monogamy fail too many times to see it as the be-all and end-all relationship format. I do want kids and a family, but I think the way people try to have that setup generally fails. Also, picket fences are heck on your shins.

6)  What's your day job?  

Administration! I shuffle papers.

7)  Do you like your day job?

Actually, yes, I love it. No, really!

8)  How many books have you written?

Written or published? Published, number three is coming up; written…uh…there’s at least two full novels done, some MORE short stories that will be a full work, MORE short stories that will be put into another work…and fistfuls of projects currently on the backburner.

9)  Avengers or X-Men?

Neither, I’m a Vertigo (DC) fan.

10) Wolverine or Thor?

Wolverine. He’s funnier.

11) Do you like comic books?

I like Alan Moore’s stuff and graphic novels, but I find comics hard to follow. So—yes, but I need them to be in a nice big volume so I can figure out what the hell is going on. I’m hopeless with the thin little serials.




From Caster Rowe:

1.     What are you currently working on?
“The Loved, The Lost, The Dreaming”, a new anthology with a horror slant that will be out in a couple of weeks. Currently the story “Underlighters” is occupying me and I’m trying to finish it before my projected release date, Dec 21st.
2.     Where does your writing inspiration most come from?
Depends on the story. Sometimes, Andrey (my partner) will throw me an idea, sometimes someone will say something and I’ll latch onto it, cackling madly as I scribble notes. Other books might spark a response from me, a desire to ‘talk back’ at their authors while creating my own work. Scrabble has also inspired me—yes, really. Sometimes I get the ideas from dreams or nightmares I’ve had.
3.     If any of your fictional works were made into a movie, who would play the protagonist and why?
Huh. Um…I’m terrible with actor’s names. However, I would love to have Allan Rickman play one of my villains at some point. That would pretty much make my life complete.

4.     Is there one book that made you decide to become a writer and how/why?
No, there were about a dozen of them. Roald Dahl definitely was influential, as was Diana Wynne Jones; lately, Alexandre Dumas is a big influence. There are a lot more, too, but I don’t even think I can remember all of them—any book that gets me thinking, crying, or arguing with it, inspires and influences me.
5.     If you had one super power, what would it be?
Double jump.
6.     What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in public?
Peed on a tree when I couldn’t’ get to a bathroom (I was a kid) or possibly taking a massive slip and slide fall when I was in 10thgrade. There’s probably a couple more embarrassing ones but I can’t think of them.
7.     If you found a million dollars and there was a $1000 reward for finding it, or you could keep it for yourself with no one ever being the wiser, what would you do?
Depends on who was looking for the million. I’d probably return it because I try to be morally sound—and if you know someone is looking for it, it’s not finders keepers, it’s stealing. I also would worry about my safety if I found a million bucks lying around.
8.     How old were you when you realized that mom and/or dad was not the source of all knowledge in the world, which is to say, she and/or he was just a dumbass like everyone else, and what was the situation?
Hard to say. I never saw my parents as omnipotent, for a variety of reasons, but the most soul-crushing realization of their mortality and imperfection happened when my father became deathly ill when I was 13. He’s fine now, but that was terrifying.
9.     What is your favorite meal to prepare?
I am a whiz at crepes and I make a pretty good steak, too. Mmmm. Now I’m hungry.
10.  Where were you when you heard that Hostess was going out of business and how will this affect your life as a productive member of society?
It won’t affect me because I don’t eat twinkies, and I believe I was staring at Facebook at the time.
11.  What is the one place in the world that you most long to visit or live?
Oooh, tough q. Paris appeals to me, but I want to go back to Montreal, because it broke my heart and enchanted me. I’d like to investigate London and New York, as well, and I’ve heard too many odd things about Tokyo to pass it up. Seoul is also on the list, and Rio…oh, fine, I just don’t want to choose.



From John Dolan:

What is the worst present you have ever received?

One time in 5th grade I had a party at the water park and invited all the popular girls. They all gave me hair products of various kinds. My hair was very messy as a kid and it was one of the more embarrassing things ever to happen to me.

2. If you were going to throw someone out of an aeroplane who would it be?
Depends on whether or not they get a parachute. If they don’t, Ann Coulter and a couple of other hate-spewing bags of trash are high on the list.

3. What is the most embarrassing thing you've ever worn?
For a kiwanis concert in 8th grade I had an all- pale-pink sweater set ensemble with matching jewelry and rosettes. I am still embarrassed of how dorky it must have looked. The other embarrassing thing I’ve worn was a helmet, pre-eye surgery (don’t ask).

4. If you could have been the writer of any song, which song would it be?

Hallelujah, but I wouldn’t want to be the writer—I just want to see the 80 verses and 2 notebooks Cohen considered before he went for the current seven.

5. If you weren't doing what you are doing, what would you be doing?

If I wasn’t, then I wouldn’t be me. I love what I’m doing. However, I’m intrigued by the idea of being a gemologist; I’d probably be taking more university courses right now.

6. How long can you hold your breath for?

About 1 minute as far as I can tell.

7. If you had to have a tattoo what would it be and where would it be on your body?

I want a flock of magpies curving around my shoulder to my hip, and a large ‘order of the unified heart’ (two interlocked hearts, a bit like a star of David) on my left shoulder, the back part.

8. Apple or Microsoft?

Pfff. Microsoft.

9. If you could remove one country from the planet which one would it be?

None, but I’d love to do surgery on American culture. It’s sad and sick in a lot of ways. (Sorry, guys.)

10. Which extinct animal would you like to see not-extinct?

The black rhino. 

11. Which movie is most likely to make you blubber?

Hmm…which movie makes me cry…Well…to be honest, The Lion King still makes me tear up. I can’t remember bawling at any movie, ever, in my entire life. Yes, really.


Questions for Others:

1)  Cake or death?
2)  What are you currently working on?
3)  Any promotions going on now?
4)  What is your least favorite book every written? Be honest.
5)  Which country in the world would you like to live in more than any other?
6)  What do you do when you’re not writing?
7)  What would you do with $10,000 (currency of your choice)?
8)  Which genres do you like? Which are impossible to stand?
9)  If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
10) Cupcakes or cookies?
11) What would you have done if the world ended on Dec 21st?


My nominees: 
These are all awesome people whose blogs you should check out. Seriously. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Galericulate: JD's Review of 'And the Stars Will Sing'

Hello hello!

Just another short update, before I return to book land. I will have publicity stuff for you, such as THE COVER OF THE NEW BOOK, but I need to finish the damn thing first.

Here we have a glorious review of And the Stars Will Sing by John Dolan, talented author of Everyone Burns. His unsolicited review completely made my weekend. *UPDATE* I'm also going to copy-paste some of my Amazon reviews, which have also blown me away.



Sci-fi novels written in the first person have an additional challenge inasmuch as the technologies and worlds described by the narrator would be familiar to them while being unfamiliar to us. This presents the writer with a technical difficulty of conveying to the reader what is different to them without undermining the narrator’s credibility. Imagine the situation of a current-day narrator describing a journey by train. Exactly HOW fascinated would that person be with how the carriage was laid out or the technology of railway tracks? The answer is not very, particularly if they’d already travelled by train hundreds of times before.

I am pleased to say that Michelle Browne handles these structural issues with apparent ease while engaging her readers in a compelling narrative along the way. The descriptions of the future are handled almost as asides (which is as it should be) without getting in the way of the story.

Ms Browne’s narrator, Crystal Weiss – a copper-haired Martian - is a delightfully snarky creation. “Glass” as she is known to her workmates is difficult, argumentative and with an offbeat sense of humour. By way of a diary, Weiss records her experiences as a mapper on a deep space project to create a wormhole for interstellar travel.

Without getting into spoiler territory, I will say there is plenty going on to engage the reader’s attention. The only nit-pick I had with the storyline was a credibility issue as to why internal transporters would be left operational in a particular circumstance (I’m not going into detail on this, as it would give too much away).

The writing style is sparse and spiky, as befits the storyteller herself.

Well done, Michelle Browne. “And the Stars Will Sing” gets my vote for novella of the year, regardless of genre."


More praise from Amazon!

"I met the author Michelle Browne in my social media ramblings. She's a snarky, interesting girl, which pretty much describes her writing.I have read A LOT of sci-fi novels and short stories. I subscribe to Analog magazine and enjoy every issue of it. This novella could easily have been a miniseries in Analog. It's top notch sci-fi. She has an easy-flowing narrative style in first person, essentially a woman's diary of her unusual work assignment aboard a wormhole mapping space vessel.
As the plot unfolds, the vessel receives a series of threatening messages from an unnamed source. The threat: If they continue their work on wormholes in that sector, they'll pay the price with their lives. The mapping isn't going well, unexplainable wormhole anomalies pop up where they shouldn't be. Something is definitely not right. Amidst this setting, our heroine is falling in love with a coworker, very much against ship regulations. Overall, it was a very interesting, creative, and entertaining read. My inner sci-fi nerd crept out from under its shell to smile.
I found it fascinating they actually map out and create or repair wormholes through space for interstellar highways. And the various different alien races that interact, sharing meals, relating to one another, bridging massive gaps of culture and language to find common ground. My only complaint is that it should have been longer. I would really like to see a full length novel of this quality sci-fi from Michelle Browne."


"Originality! It's what first sucked me into the Harry Potter series and it's what sucked me into And the Stars Will Sing. Upon starting JK Rowling's now hugely famous series (no one had heard of it back then) I was struck by how Rowling had managed to invent so many new and fresh ideas, names and incidents in a genre that I thought had been mined dry. Michelle Browne has pulled off the exact same magic (no pun intended) with her debut novella, And the Stars Will Sing. I was immediately impressed by the fact that she just lays out her world as if we're all as familiar with it as we are with Star Wars and Star Trek. And despite the plethora of alien names, races, planets, star ships and fantastically futuristic tech those two giants of Sci-Fi have flooded the world with, Browne has invented her own brilliant and fresh canon. It's nothing short of pure genius of invention, and in reading it, one comes to believe that Browne knows all about wormholes and the technology of future space travel, and one starts to believe that all this could well be real some day. At the same time she somehow manages to channel the hard SF of Asimov, Pournelle and Niven while also including a touch of the fantastical elements of CJ Cherryh and Piers Anthony. And all this clever blending is presented in Browne's own unique Young Adult diary style writing. Without revealing any of the plot, there are also two nicely subtle instances in which the book's title is incorporated into the story and one thinks ah, now I get it... and it's really cool. So no matter your age, if you enjoy hard SF and space operas alike, and want to take a quick trip to the farthest reaches of an unknown galaxy to discover why the stars do indeed sing, grab a copy of Michelle Browne's And the Stars Will Sing."

Yeah, I'm just going to sit here and glow with that. If you haven't got a copy already, you're going to want one. Here, just follow the magic link. 

*****

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the good kind of crazy. Find me on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. Don't forget to check back for short stories, more politics, analysis, scraps of science, and even some reviews. (And no, I haven't forgotten those extra reviews I promised you...they're coming, really. Cross my heart.) There will even be more interviews. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Breaking News; A Very Quick Post

Hello hello!

This is going to be a VERY QUICK post, just to say 'hello' and welcome you into December. I've got lots of ideas for posts, but the final story in "The Loved, The Lost, The Dreaming" (yes, that's what it's called! Yay!) is taking a LOT longer than anticipated, so it might be a thin month. We'll be back to our regular programming in January.

Just a reminder for those who haven't been on my Facebook page or have missed the rapid-fire chatter on my Twitter account--you can still get And the Stars Will Sing for FREE until Dec 10 2012, and The Stolen: Two Short Stories is a mere .99 right now! It's my birthday today, and I like to share my presents. You're welcome.

And the Stars Will Sing, or AtSWS for short, has been a bestseller on the free lists, climbing to #17 in Science Fiction Adventure's free side, and to #1255 overall in Amazon's free side. More than 300 people know this book is awesome, and if you grab it before Dec 11th, you'll find out why! The Stolen is also sitting in the top 100,000 of Amazon, which is pretty decent. Don't miss either the zap-gun space adventure or the darkly humorous dystopia.

Here are your links:

And the Stars Will Sing

The Stolen: Two Short Stories

Okay! That's all for now--I need to get back to writing about dreams, nightmares, and underground cities. Be sure to check out the books, and to share this one with friends! You definitely won't regret it.

*****

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the good kind of crazy. Find me on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. Don't forget to check back for short stories, more politics, analysis, scraps of science, and even some reviews. (And no, I haven't forgotten those extra reviews I promised you...they're coming, really. Cross my heart.) There will even be more interviews. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Breaking News: Official Preview of The New Anthology


Hello hello!

Well, it's official...I'm putting out a story collection on December 21st. ARE YOU EXCITED YET? YOU SHOULD BE! I definitely am. Cover art still needs to get designed, unfortunately, but I have only two stories--one long and one short--to finish for this collection. And guess what? Because I love you all so much, you get to read the first story in the as-yet-untitled anthology! Please make sure you share this one, if you like it.

*****

THE GRAIN

I’m not sure exactly when it started, the dreams that I would get lost in. I do remember the first night, but I couldn’t tell you how old I was, exactly. There was a sensation like going down a slide, feet up and head down. Sleep rushed over me, not settling like a warm bird but flying over me, faster than I could understand it.

I rose from a pool of mercury, which clung to my limbs and stuck to my skin as I lifted myself. I was wearing something white and flowing, cool and slick on the skin. To my faint surprise, it was not wet where the sticky, shining metallic stuff had been covering it only moments before. It seemed to be a sort of cavern. The light was grey, dim, cool and distant.

This is how I began to chase the dreams around, following them through caverns. Each night I’d take a different path from the pool, rushing headlong through a stalactite archway and into another world. I saw wonders and I saw terrors. Rabbits with the legs of spiders bursting through their sides, pets that transformed from sweet distractions to slavering, clicking monsters after a single touch. Flowers that were made of tiny dancing ladies, capering in silk and the remains of butterflies. Buildings that shifted and walked like men, pausing to converse with each other as they walked through cities on the road. A city in the desert where they traded dreams instead of money.

Deep in the desert, there are cities where men sell dreams and memories. Sell is not the right word, perhaps. Memories are the currency. A shared but ordinary memory, told well, is the price of a healthy cow; a brief anecdote, ac chicken. For the knowledge and private things, skills are traded; items change hands, and market stalls empty.

Such memories have a fine face value, if told well, but if brief or ill-described, fetch small sums. There are women of fine repute whose descriptions beggared princes, and men whose fine plays set the nations at war and furnished their armies, as well.

Yet still more precious than the memories, say the sage’s duty scrolls, are the dreams. The scrolls dictate the way of life, and so it is. The dreams are coin of a different sort. Where a man might go an d work in a gold mine in exchange for a saucy tale, which he and his fellows could share in the city, dream currency is one that can be held, extracted. A memory flutters into the air and is used until it is shared, decreasing in value as it becomes more familiar. Dreams are a currency to be held.

A woman whose name was lost in time—only her sex remembered—was the first to hear the secret hum of the spheres and experiment with certain crystal alloy glasses. She taught her pupils, seeking the ones with moonstruck eyes and steady hands and ruthless souls, and they passed down their secret trade. To catch dreams and to make the equipment—the skills can be trained, but not taught. The precious clear headdresses and ornaments cupping the shaven skulls of every citizen collect only a few grains of dreams and each night, nearly microscopic granules.
Months or years would pass before the silvery grains had accumulated enough to be seen by the naked eye, and to be large enough to sell. The powdery grains had a look and flow like liquid silver, and in the finest, secret corners of the markets, a few merchant-priests controlled the rituals concerning its trade.

Under the light of the bright moon, which lingered high and long in that cold-nighted place, lenses of dragonscale and amber could be used to magnify the worlds and wonders hidden in the grains. Up close, each apparently silvery grain was an uneven crystal, almost a tridecahedron, but its natural facets had been made by no jewelry. In their depths, each one threw off its own light in a dozen colors. At a fine enough magnification, horrors and wonders, lascivious and foolish things flickered. Each moment, a shifting mass of concentrated lovely chaos would appear and dissipate.

Marvels they were, but even with its powers, a single grain was never bought alone. Those who came to buy and sell their dreams would inhale the powder for sweet and stranger sleep, sell it for fantastic stories or gold to the alchemists, or sprinkle dreams of certain kinds in the shoes of lovers and enemies. As the merchant-priests sorted dreams into approximate categories, alchemists and magicians waited outside or in lines, hoping for just enough of the dust to make their potions. Mixed with fenny seed and the breath of a phoenix, it granted invisibility; with the tears of a sea-turtle and five bright emeralds from a gryphon’s nest, finely powdered, it would cure any sickness, and—it was said—could bring back anyone even from the very brink of death. The necromancers used it with coals of the Pit for obscene things, to beguile demons for temporary service.


For a hundred hundred years, it was precious and respected as a thing to trade only in small quantities, delicately, with respect. A certain king came to power in the ten thousandth year of the cities’ existence. In centuries to follow, his name was struck from temples, archives, and monuments, and replaced only with a glyph for unspeakable cruelty. It was he that decided the cold-blooded and long-lived dream masters would be best at practicing their art if they had steady supplies of dream powder.
A suddenly revived tourist trade and many kidnappings followed. Ten thousand chained slaves, sleeping in the finest beds in the empire, were drugged to sleep, and dreamed en masse. With their priceless dust and an army of magic users, the king set out to grow their trade and conquer the neighboring cities outside the desert. Under the flame-eyed sun and cool moon, his armies marched, silent as the sand dunes and invisible, thanks to certain obscene preparations.

            I awoke in their dungeons, once or twice on my travels, chained to silk cushions and with slaves fanning me with ostrich plumes. I struggled and cried out, and the most delicate extract of belladonna and mandrake steeped in wine trickled down my throat, until I slept again. Dreaming again, dreaming within dreams, I awoke in my own life.

            So it was, nightly, for some days or weeks—perhaps centuries. I cannot tell. Once again I awoke as a soldier, panting and sweating in the desert, but moving soundless in formation behind the shields and shifts wrought by sorcerers. I remember our swords in the necks of citizens, dragging the children back with us to be trained in the somnatorium, for refined sleep, producing the most dreams. I remember every moment of their screaming, their delicate skin chafing in the cuffs, the blood they left behind them on the sand. I remember the point of my sword on their delicate birdlike throats. I remember inhaling just a little dream dust, just a grain or two, to quiet the screams in my head for the night. I remember the madness.
            I remember awakening in the palace far away the next night, in the cool south. Watching the vast spire-domed city from the highest minaret, where my dark-skinned and lovely people worked hard to create beautiful things, I wondered at the approaching army. There was no chance of a diplomatic marriage, but it would have failed anyway. War or sabotage were the only solutions, to keep my people from lying in their silk and twitching in sleep, dream-slaves to the conqueror. No magic was worth it, but his power was only swelling.

            Awakening again, no longer a fine dark princess with glorious curling hair and spider silk and gold on my limbs, I found myself a sorcerer, working with the dust, a few grains at a time. To mix the stuff into the mad king’s wine cup, swallowing it, a thing no-one was permitted to do—inhale a bit was powerful, a thousand times less, than to swallow even a grain…yet I slipped a little in my pocket before I mixed the rest for the king. When prepared, I brought it to the lady, whose body I had so recently borrowed. My silvery pools were far away, the dull daytime that night would pull me back from, as I watched her take the poison cup to the official envoy.

            And oh, had I only been a servant, the lowliest, at the surrender dinner, to witness what came. I know only of what happened after from a dream night as a nomad, finding one of the fallen pillars lying in the sand. The story was in characters our people had nearly lost, and yet I pieced together hints of the narrative hints of the dust. A hidden scrap of parchment, stained with something brown like blood and burned by fire, gave further hints, but refused to yield the details of its secrets.

            And so was the king’s downfall, through methods that were struck from history after, and their consequences. The terrible price was worthy, but oh, even the few historians who had written of the king spoke not of the consequences of the princess’ decision. Great and terrible things, waves of mercury and fire, armies of the dusty dead in their graves, horrors from beyond the stars coming to cut the world in two, were hinted at but not spoken of clearly.  The world was fire and darkness, but it must have gone away, for people still survived. And yet, the shadow on the horizon hinted that things were still there, lingering in the desert…turning from the pillar, I pulled my long-trunked and strange-legged mount, and turned from history.


And now, awake and far away from my silver caves, my moonlit deserts, I have brought a relic with me somehow. Dream dust. I have a good gram of the stuff, sparkling bright in my palm. It came with me in my pocket, I suppose; somehow it was beneath my pillow. I wonder what just a grain on the tip of my tongue would do? Just one? Just one…just one…just…here on my tongue…just one…       

*****

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the good kind of crazy. Find me on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and make sure you grab my books at Amazon, here and here. Don't forget to check back for short stories, more politics, analysis, scraps of science, and even some reviews. (And no, I haven't forgotten those extra reviews I promised you...they're coming, really. Cross my heart.) There will even be more interviews. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out!


                              

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The New Apocalypse: An Interview with JC Eggleton, Author of Brookhaven

Hello hello!

Well, you have made your pilgrimage to my site once again, darling fans, and you're in for a treat. Tonight, I have an interview with JC Eggleton, author of the one and only Brookhaven. 

Brookhaven, book 1 of the Web of Fate series, can be bought here; and you really should buy it, now, as soon as you can.  It's dark, it kept me up with its waking nightmare world, and it's rather well-written. I can't tell you too much about the plot without giving things away. I will say, though, that it involves a crime plot in a small southern town, plenty of pitch-black humour, and a struggle for a man's soul--and that none of this goes in the directions you'd expect. So, without further ado, give a warm welcome to the warped and wonderful JC Eggleton!

*****

Q: Describe yourself in 20 words or less.

A: Mostly harmless.


Q: Tell us about your novel.
A: Brookhaven is the first novel in The Web of Fate, which at the moment is planned to be a twenty-seven book series. The plot focuses on two policemen using very different methods to solve the ritual murder of a local priest. While this goes on in the foreground, a dark god is operating in the background to drive people to murder and insanity. The story broadens in scope as it progresses, eventually exploring what can best be described as a corner of Hell.
Though billed as horror, it's strongly influenced by urban grit, fantasy, and science fiction. As the series progresses these influences are made more prevalent as a sprawling mythos is explored. My aim was to craft a modern mythology that draws inspiration from folklore, Jungian psychology, and quantum theory.



Submitted by the author. Again, you can buy this book here. It is just as scary as it looks. I loved it. 




Q: What, or who, inspired Marcus Dodd's character?
*****

A: Marcus Allan Dodd was sort of always there. I always saw him as an avatar of my own anger. He lacks the means to save the world so he makes do in any way he can and these ways are normally a tad ruthless. He looks at our society, with Honey Booboo and Jersey Shore on the tube, and sees a culture that's eating itself alive to kill the stupidity.

Q: "Brookhaven" is a fairly dystopic, dark novel, somewhat in the style of HP Lovecraft. What led to its darkness?

A: Like HP Lovecraft, I write what I dream and, also like Lovecraft, I dream dark. As a sufferer of Asberger's Syndrome, I've always seen myself as being on the outside looking in. No matter the situation, whether at home or work or school, I've never felt like I belonged. These feelings of alienation and loneliness tend to make me dream of exaggerated and monstrous caricatures of people that have malevolent intent. Being an outsider, you look at the world from a macroscopic view and wonder how any of these people think they're sane. That may sound arrogant, but honesty is my only virtue.


Q: Humanity: a) Ultimately evil, b) ultimately good, or c) other?

A: I choose c) other. Human beings are a balance of the animal and the divine. At one end of the spectrum, you have chaos and barbarism. At the other, you have order and law. Most people would say that there is no virtue in chaos but I don't think that's true. The animal is a creature of passion, capable of great violence but also great love. The divine is a creature of logic, a skilled protector of what it is to be human but is also devoid of compassion. Recently, a woman beat a man into a coma with a baseball bat. Open and shut case in a court of law, but she was avenging her ten year old daughter the man had raped. What she did was illegal, vigilantism, but was it wrong? Was she not justified in her actions? Logic would say no, compassion would say yes.
That's what separates humankind from the animals and what separates us from machines. One of my favorite books was A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, a true artist. The meaning of the title was lost in Stanley Kubrick's film, but Kubrick, though a phenomenal filmmaker, had a habit of missing the point (Ask Stephen King what he thought of The Shining). In In Burgess's work, he wrote that every man was capable of great horror and inspiring virtue. We are what we choose to be. We're not clockwork oranges, appearing alive on the outside but peel the skin away and observe the cogs and gears at work. I like to think there's more to us than simple good or evil.



Submitted by JC, picture of the author. This is definitely his 'scary' face.


Q: What do you plan to write or publish next?
A: I'm actually hard at work on the sequel to Brookhaven, The Red.

Q: Which foods do you absolutely hate?
A: Anything that comes from a box. Most of what we eat is about as nutritious as a strip of cardboard that's been soaking in grease and this makes me a sad panda.

Q: Where would you hide a body?
A: I've never been one to hide my mistakes. Weekend at Bernie's, anyone?
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the good kind of crazy. Find me on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. Don't forget to check back for short stories, more politics, analysis, scraps of science, and even some reviews. (And no, I haven't forgotten those extra reviews I promised you...they're coming, really. Cross my heart.) There will even be more interviews. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Finally: A Late Halloween Treat, "No Free Lunch"

Hello hello!
Well, I've been less reliable lately, but I hope you all still love me. I did promise that I would finally catch up with Halloween content. I still have some reviews of classic monster movies that I'd like to stick up, so hopefully those will be going up in the next week. I don't want to promise too much, because NaNoWriMo has been eating my time like a cat with the last can of his favorite wet food. The good news is...this means you can probably have a new book by December. I KNOW, RIGHT? So, stay tuned for more info about that!
The fun thing about the story that follows is that it's 'based on a true story'. This one is dedicated to Kim, Rebecca, Linda, Judy, and Malek, as well as the rest of you at the office (you know who you are). It was a pleasure working with you. Events were a bit different than this, and may have included less ghost, but we did, in fact, win the haunted cubicle contest with a house basically the same as the description below.
So, without further ado, I present a new short story written in the spirit of holiday frivolity--ladies, gentlemen, and others, I hope you enjoy "No Free Lunch".

*****

No Free Lunch

Sam adjusted the garbage bags in the far corner carefully. The time leading up to Halloween was seldom as nightmarish as the weeks before Christmas, but this year, the Haunted office decorations had been more intense than usual.
She had been wracking her brains for ideas. The other people on the admin team, Janet and Amrit especially, had had no idea what to do this year. The competition for a free lunch was fierce, and Sam’s nerves were frayed.
The already nightmarish mountains of paperclips around her desk seemed to grow by the minute. Flurries of sticky notes surrounded her like snow. The work was fast paced, and now, this; even the office supplies seemed to be mocking her, ganging up her... It had to be the stress of the season and her lack of sleep lately. Had to be. She rubbed her eyes and pulled some more tape from the roll. Alone in this empty cubicle, at least she didn’t have to stare at her desk, and at all the work that was waiting for her tomorrow.
The garbage bag fluttered in the air conditioning. The wall was covered, the window slide was covered, and the third side was blanketed in dark plastic, but the entrance was still waiting for her. Holding her torn garbage bag in one hand and groping for the top of the cubicle with the other, she stepped from the chair to the desk precariously. Doing this with help would have been better, but necessity was the mother of invention, and desperation, the mother of stupidity. Sam tried to cheer herself up with the thought of weeks off with pay if she ended up with a workplace injury. Thoughts of hyperbolically messy leg wounds and cracking her head open invaded her thoughts gorily. Sam decided that thinking about horribly broken limbs was inviting fate, and concentrated on her task.
Holding her breath, she pressed the masking taped edges to the ceiling and fumbled for the overlaps on the adjoining bag.
There, perfect. Now for the second layer, thought Sam. The walls and roof were now shrouded in darkness. Resenting that she was alone for the task, Sam worked her way around the second layer.
The bags covered evidence of the world outside the cubicle quite well, draping sleekly over the wrap-around, faux arborite desk. Everything was darkness, and even the sunlight through the blinds near the entrance couldn’t penetrate it.
With everything blocked off, Sam suddenly felt keenly aware of how alone she was.
Not a fax or printer beeped. Not a cell phone rang. Her own, charging back at the desk, was out of reach. She suddenly craved music, even footsteps, but apart from air conditioning and a faint sound of the light, there was only silence.
Sam shook her head. Come on, she thought. It’s just a haunted house. Cubicle. Not even a real haunted house. Just a friggin’ cubicle. Precariously, she reached up for the light and started taping the square halogen over. The red tissue paper fluttered in her fingertips. Resisting the masking tape almost playfully.
She overlapped three wide panels, and it was done. The shroud of darkness now had cherry-red lighting illuminating its shining surfaces. The sanguine gleam was as eerie as she’d hoped.
A rustle in the sealed walls made her startle. Just the air conditioner, she thought. Just the AC.
Sam decided not to think about horror movies. The idea of a beast lurking, unseen in the vents, coming out to maul homeless people and interns, waiting for a temp like her to be alone.
Silly, she thought. Don’t be a dumbass. A largish predator would leave dung and corpses. They’d smell it coming.
She giggled, cutting the silence. It sounded a little hysterical. Gathering her wits, she extracted the roll of ‘bloody gauze’ and the “caution” tape. Hanging the gauze from the doorway, she taped the yellow ‘danger’ emblazoned plastic strips at odd angles around the room. The plastic darkness was fluid angels and curves in the room subtly shifted in wrong ways.
Ignoring her shudders and the eerily rustling plastic, Sam looked through the bag of decorations. She hung the skeleton garlands and glow in the dark cotton webs on every surface, draping them eerily to make the most of the hidden corners.
The cubicle was small, but the plastic that sealed her from the outside world made it seem larger. Colder, too, and oddly cavernous.
Sam reached into the bag again and felt cold fingers. She yelped loudly. Extracting her shaking fingers, she peeked inside the bag. A severed hand, its stump and fingernails bloody reached up for her.
“Fucksticks!” It was just one of the decorations. She’d even seen it before. The house and her insomnia were getting to her. She prayed Amrit and Janet hadn’t bought anything else terrifying and unexpected. Janet’s suggestion of a scary office with piles of work everywhere was looking like a much better alternative to the hellfire and skeleton theme Amrit had pioneered.
As she strung up caged ghosts and dark-eyed skulls, Sam forced herself to think about clich├ęd, goofy horror movies.
She was wearing plain underwear, wasn’t blond or noticeably slutty…so far, so good for survival odds. Still, she thought, the idea of an office ghost, some poor idiot who’d had a heart attack in the waiting room or a vengeful file clerk who’d keeled over from boredom, seemed a little too realistic. Of course, thought, Sam, it might be a more sinister creature…
The empty eyes of plastic skulls burned hollowly into her back as she contemplated the possibilities. Perhaps a lady ghost with trailing tangled hair, flowing like ink, coming to avenge herself on the world? Or a shambling monster, lurking near some rift in time and space, waiting for some accidental conjunction to let it tear into the real world? Visions of long claws, grinning teeth, and burning eyes crept through her mind.
You’ll drive yourself crazy, she reprimanded herself. Sam felt cold, not just because of the AC, which was on over-drive. The silence of the office and her enclosed space weighed down on her.
Okay, she thought, time to treat things as a comedy. If a ghost does show up, how do I handle it?
With shaking fingers, she adjusted the recording in a hidden corner. The screams, moans, and sounds of howling wind were underlaid with the music from “Thriller”. It was a surprisingly creepy combination. A particularly agonized moan made her jump, and she found herself giggling hysterically.
The room was cold and covered in decorations. When something snagged on her ankle, she shook it, expecting to dislodge the garland. It didn’t budge.
Sam knelt down to look and found herself staring into a white face with glowing sockets and emaciated features. It opened its mouth and cackled. Sam kicked the animated zombie’s face in annoyance before remembering that it belonged to Amrit.
Feeling foolish, she checked it for damage. One of the arms had gotten caught around her leg, tangled with a garland. Huffing in frustration, she extricated herself. It hadn’t been her imagination that it seemed dark; the lights in the reception room were half out. The sound track of moans from the digital recorder jarred her nerves further. Then, all at once, there was a yowl from a different direction, startling her.
She stomped out to reception and put her most patient smile on.
There was an ectoplasmic horror clawing at the glass barrier and moaning.
Years in admin had trained her well.
“Can I help you?” she blurted out.
The apparition pawed at the glass again, its sinewy, translucent fingers leaving a glowing trail on the glass.
Sam thought quickly. Sam wondered if she should duck out of the way, and considered that the ghost would likely follow her.        The black eyes held a faint white spark at their centres, like a pupil, glowing in an unholy way.
Sam forced herself to breathe. Her heart was trembling like a moth trapped in a lamp.
Either it was the best costume she’d ever seen, or a bona fide apparition. It moaned again. Admin face, she thought to herself. Put your secretary face on.
She carefully scrawled the emergency number on a post it. “I’m sorry, but I can’t quite make out what you’re saying. I’m afraid the office is normally closed right now.”She slipped the note under the glass. “Here’s an emergency line you can call, though. They’re available twenty four hours a day.”
The ghost moaned angrily and slammed itself against the glass. “I’ll have to ask you not to do that, or building security will need to escort you out, and I won’t be helping you today.”
The specter became quiescent, and groaned quietly as it backed away. 
I can’t believe that worked. “Thank you. What did you need help with?”
The ghost moaned and gestured vaguely, its words incoherent.
I’m sorry, perhaps you could…here’s a note bad, will that work?”
The hollow eyes met hers as the specter nodded mournfully. Its skull shimmered for a moment as it stared at the note pad.
"Oh, there’s a pen to your left…”
With a forefinger, it traced a few letters shakily on the paper.
Lonely. Need job.
“We don’t really, ah provide employment services after hours, we’re more about basic needs…y9ou can come back for counseling in the day time, though…”
The ghost growled and gestured to its right. Behind the wall was her haunted cubicle.
Sam got a very bad, very good idea.
“The haunted office?”
The ghost peered at her. Its cadaverous, flowing features looked hopeful.
“Promise not to steal our souls or otherwise open doorways to hell> I am ram not allowed to let clients back there and I definitely don’t think they allow demons.”
The ghost yowled indignantly and gestured to the tattered remains of an ID lanyard around its neck.
“If you’re an employee, I guess…that’s fine? Okay, I’ll let you in,” said Sam, “but you have to stay in the haunted cubicle until the judges get here tomorrow morning. “
The apparition flickered out. Sam blinked several times, still not convinced that she hadn’t fallen asleep at the desk at some point.
She heard the door beep, and there was a sudden gust of cold air as the door shook on its hinges. She yelped, involuntarily. The lights flickered back on, all at once.
Sam shook her head. Well, it had to have been a dream or something like that. Sleep deprivation did that, didn’t it? Made you hallucinate? Suddenly, the whole office seemed happier, brighter, and so was Sam, as she considered the completed office. Loaded with candy and surprises, it was sure to land them a lunch. She sighed, feeling relief that her nightmare hadn’t been about evil paperclips, and finally headed home.
The next day at the Tulip and Sceptre, Amrit and Janet were discussing their great success in the cubicle project.
“I have to admit, I love what you did with my ideas, said Amrit, beaming. “II mean, seriously, it was awesome! They really screamed in there!”
Hand to be the music, Janet asserted proudly. "And the candy helped. We had the best house though. No competition whatsoever.”
Sam smiled at them and bit into the salad, enjoying her free lunch. “Something like that. Something, she thought.
Amrit sighed. “I wish they’d let us keep the cubicle up year round. It’ll be so empty when we take things down.”
Sam kept her face neutral as she set down her fork. “I dunno,” she managed. “I think it’s less empty than it looks. I…I’ll be right back.”
Janet and Amrit made sure to put up pictures before they took down the house and the garbage bags, but the sadness of tearing it down seemed even more overwhelming than they’d expected it to be. Amrit mentioned to Sam that the cubicle seemed less empty than she’d thought, even without the decorations, and Sam had only excused herself, laughing.
Janet was especially puzzled by the ragged ID tag she found under the desk, weeks later, after Sam had left for her next placement. The face was scratched away, the name illegible, but it seemed familiar. The pipes overhead rattled, and a stray moan cut the air.
"Can it, Larry,” snapped Janet irritably. “I want to go home. Save your antics for the next temp.” A sad moan trailed through the air.
“It’s okay, buddy. We fooled her good. Same time next year?”

Fin.

*****

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the good kind of crazy. Find me on Twitter, Facebook, and on Tumblr. Don't forget to check back for short stories, more politics, analysis, scraps of science, and even some reviews. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out!
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