Making Hay with Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry and Chris Riddell!

On Monday 29th May 2017, I had the good fortune to drive to the beautiful Welsh/Herefordshire border town of Hay-on-Wye and its world famous Hay Literary Festival. The Hay Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so it felt like an extra special treat. My reason for going, apart from the fact that Hay-on-Wye is a book lovers paradise, was because I had tickets to see Neil Gaiman in conversation with Stephen Fry on the subject of ‘Mythology’, two authors and people I greatly admire and a topic I love and am a little obsessed with – a perfect day out! 😀

I’ve been to Hay and its festival many times now but it always feels like the first time, that tangible sense of excitement and child like joy just stays with me every time. I’ve been wanting to see Neil Gaiman for ages but somehow had always missed him, often because I’d bought early bird tickets to see someone else before realising that Gaiman was appearing as well. As much as I love Hay it’s just too far to go twice in a week (every route there is fiddly as hell), and too expensive and booked up to even consider staying the night. Last time, I was at the festival to see Kazuo Ishiguro and his brilliant new book The Buried Giant and had once again missed Neil Gaiman. The irony was that Ishiguro was discussing the incredible snobbery he had encountered when he decided to write The Buried Giant, his first foray into fantasy, and how he had had no idea just what genre bias, prejudice and misconceptions there was in literary circles about fantasy. In fact, Ishiguro had been so taken aback by the level of snobbery towards fantasy that he ended up, with Neil Gaiman, writing a newspaper article about it!

So when the festival programme landed on my door two weeks ago and I saw Neil Gaiman would be appearing with another favourite of mine, Stephen Fry, it was a no brainer, I booked my ticket immediately. To my delight, a couple of friends had booked up the exact same event so we were able to meet up and sit next to each other. A shout out to the lovely Roz Clarke a brilliant fellow fantasy writer from Grimbold Books (who’s not only a great writer but is an amazing editor as well as being a lovely person) and Heather Ashley, another lovely mutual friend and her fabulous fringed blue shawl which I wanted to steal and two new friends I met on Monday, Ian Halverson and Amanda Beecham who was wearing the most gorgeous dress!

I drove to Hay hoping to avoid the predicted rain as well as all the poor squashed hedgehogs along the route. My accompanying soundtrack was Soundgarden’s Superunknown album, made all the more poignant by the tragic suicide of its glorious frontman and all round poetic genius, Chris Cornell less than two weeks before. The track ‘Feels Like Suicide’, a track I had always loved now seems too loaded with meaning and full of sadness to listen to. 😦

I arrived a little late (as usual), just after 1pm. Note to all people travelling to Hay-on-Wye, don’t EVER go through Hereford, REALLY not worth it! Anyway, after a security check of bags (a sad necessity these days especially post the horrific Manchester attack the previous Monday) and the armed police that were patrolling the festival, I met up with the gang in the Food Hall. What made it more joyous, is that only Heather had been to Hay before so for Roz, Ian and Amanda this was all a gloriously new experience. We wandered past the various tents, bunting and fluttering flags like Tibetan prayers to the gods, past the smells of barbecuing foods, coffee’s of every description, acoustic music, pan pipes, fiddles and the general hubbub caused by the thousands of festival goers.

We grabbed a shuttle bus into town and started our book crawl opposite Hay-on-Wye’s impressive ruined castle…by going to Shepherd’s Ice-Cream Parlour! Yes, ice cream came before books! 😀 Shepherd’s is an amazing place straight out of the 1930’s with it’s curved glass façade, mosaic floor and café chic vibe, but it’s ice cream…oh la la! The queues were totally worth it! Made from local sheep’s milk, for me, it’s the best ice cream outside of Italy. I was a little pig and had four scoops spread over two tubs! 😀

We began exploring Hay-on-Wye’s delights by visiting the famous Richard Booth’s bookshop – THIS is the sort of bookshop you dream about, all creaking dark wooden floors and interior and several levels to get blissfully lost in. Having the will power of a gnat, I succumbed and bought my first of many purchases of the day!

We went on to Addyman’s Books, Mostly Maps and one of my personal favourites, Hay-On-Wye Booksellers. The magical thing about Hay-on-Wye, is that it casts a spell over you so utterly that you lose track of time even if you’ve only been in a few of its wonderful bookshops. Which is what happened to us. We didn’t even get the chance to meander around Hay’s largest bookshop, Hay Cinema Bookshop with over 200,000 titles! Suddenly it was 5pm and with our Neil Gaiman/Stephen Fry event starting at 5:30 in the main Tata Tent, we had to move our arses. With the queue for the shuttle buses impossibly long we decided to chance walking the mile and a bit from the town centre to the festival. We made it in time and joined the expansive queue – in all my years of going to Hay, I’ve never seen a queue for anybody as long as that one! We eventually got into the Tent and in my exuberance to grab five seats together I virtually trampled on this poor woman who had sat herself at the very end of a line of empty seats. Oops sorry! :O

The event started and to our amazement we had an extra treat, up on stage joining Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry was Children’s Laureate and illustrator extraordinaire, Chris Riddell (a FB friend of mine and someone I am in complete awe of). Chris was on stage throughout actually illustrating the conversation on the spot! Amazing! I have no idea how he does it!

The conversation started with Stephen Fry asking Neil about how he first got into mythology, a subject they are both passionate about (Stephen Fry loves Greek Myths which he talked about a bit, whereas Neil Gaiman prefers Norse Myths – hence his new book, Norse Mythology). For Neil Gaiman it was Norse Mythology and its roots, not the Wagnerian Cycle stuff but the older original Eddas, tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and giant wolf Fenrir, of magic and cruelty, tricks and betrayal, that he loved so much. Certainly very inspirational stuff, no wonder Tolkien often plundered such tales for his own creations! Neil spoke eloquently about Loki’s children, particularly Týr and read a section of his new book, Norse Mythology, and how Odin had made the dwarfs make an unbreakable chain, Gleipnir, and had tricked Fenrir into being bound up by it because they were jealous of his strength and power. I won’t spoil the end of the tale for those of you who are not familiar. 🙂

Stephen Fry, as always, had a lovely relaxed style of questioning that made both men at ease, even under the intense stare of some 500 audience members and all the bright lights. Chris Riddell brought there conversations alive with beautifully drawn snapshots of both sitters and the various mythological characters they discussed, as well as some cheekily flamboyant moments of drawing hilarity!

The entire experience was utterly magical. I really wish I had brought a Dictaphone or something to record it all. It lasted just over a hour with some question and answer bits from the audience, including one girl asking if as writers did Gaiman and Fry ever feel like a God themselves? Clever question. Neil Gaiman replied “Yes, twice. Once when I was asked to write a Dr. Who script and I wrote… ‘Interior Tardis’, and once 30 years before that when I had to make Batman say something!” You can see the whole talk here.

Someone also asked if Gaiman would be interested in ever doing some Welsh Myths, like the Mabinogion…he didn’t say no! 😀 For someone like me, who ADORES any kind of mythology, but particularly Norse, Celtic and ancient Sumerian tales (Epic of Gilgamesh), this whole event was simply edible! 😀

After it finished I did my usual gazelle sprint to the festival bookshop, to queue up for the book signing. Despite my stumpy legs and swift weaving through the crowds, there were still about a hundred people in front of us, including the annoying serial fidget who was sitting next to me and could keep still for ore than a few seconds, making my chair move so much I was getting nauseous! But, we still managed to secure a good place, seeing as the queue snaked behind me by at least 2 or 3 hundred people!

Despite aching legs and complaining feet we queued and queued. Due to the number of people waiting Neil could only signed two books, but frankly he was amazing and ended up book signing for 5 hours! OMG! Anyway, being the naughty shit that I am and being a fan of his writing, I couldn’t resist in doing something cheeky. When it came to him singing the books I bought, his Norse Mythology and Stardust, I blurted out that I was a fan of his writing and wanted to give him a gift to say thank you. I wasn’t as eloquent as I wanted to be and slapped my novel, White Mountain, down on his table like a wet fish, but he was very gracious and seemed to love the cover. “Wow, lovely to meet a fellow author!” then to my amazement he stretched out his hand for a handshake! Gulp! What a moment, then he went and drew a doodle in one of the books!

After the book signing, exhausted but blissfully happy we said our goodbyes. It was nearly 8:30 but thankfully still light, so with the sun setting I left Hay-on-Wye and this my most favourite of festivals and taking a different route I drove through the majestic landscapes of the Golden Valley homeward bound.

What a magical day! 😀

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Distant Worlds – Welcomes Sophie E Tallis!

This is the eighth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews – and as today is my birthday (gulp) and the auspicious publishing date for a very cool fantasy/sci-fi charity anthology I’m in (A World Of Their Own), it’s my turn to be in the hot ejector seat!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the last few weeks I’ve been focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, there are still great bargains to be had, so grab yourself something special before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our eighth author interview…epic fantasy writer and illustrator…

Sophie E Tallis

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Sophie, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

I always think of Ray Mears here, who undoubtedly would say fresh water, shelter, food and fire would be essentials. So, I’d take my very handy Swiss Army penknife with a ridiculous amount of useful tools in it, a waterproof and spider proof tent (essential for me!), a lighter, plastic bottle for water and warm blanket.  🙂

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

If I couldn’t take my four gorgeous white wolves with me and my family and friends, then I’d have to grab paper, pens, pencils, photos and some kind of music. If I can’t draw or write I’d go crazy pretty quickly and I need to have music.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I’m such an anti-social sod, I’d probably enjoy going it alone.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

It’s almost impossible choosing only 5 books because I love so many, but I’d probably mostly choose the classics, things I know I love already and can read again and again. (There may be some cheating here!)

  1. The Complete works of Philip K Dick (I LOVE ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’, but also his short stories are awesome, ‘Minority Report’, ‘Total Recall’)
  2. The Complete works of JRR Tolkien (are you seeing a pattern here?)
  3. The Complete works of Frank Herbert (Dune has proved a very popular choice in these interviews, why? Because it is awesome!)
  4. The Complete works of GRR Martin (these are such large tomes they should keep me going for a while.)
  5. The Complete works of Joseph Conrad (yeap, strange choice perhaps, but I love ‘Heart of Darkness’)

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

I have incredibly eclectic tastes, but will leave out my opera and heavy metal albums.

  1. OK Computer – Radiohead (this was the sound track to my 4 month backpacking trip around New Zealand in 97/98. Awesome band, awesome album.)
  2. Pure Cult – best of The Cult (also part of my NZ soundtrack)
  3. Best of Vaughan Williams – I love Fantastia on a theme of Thomas Tallis, the soundtrack to White Mountain.
  4. Ten – Pearl Jam (great album and a huge part of my student days, when all I listened to was Grunge Rock – Soundgarden, MotherLoveBone, Soul Asylum, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Live…ahhh, the endless lumberjack check shirts, youth angst and long dirty hair!)
  5. Best of Blondie – (I wanted to be Debbie Harry!)

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Sadly water. Still can’t drink vodka since my missing 24hour memory gap from a binge when I was 17, and I don’t want Coca-Cola rotten teeth.

Random comet question: If you had to live somewhere else, would you chose Westeros or Middle-Earth?

I think Westeros would be awesome, but as much as I’d like to see myself as a strong survivor mother of dragons type, in reality I’d end up being murdered in about 5 mins by a drunk dwarf or have my head squashed by the Mountain. So I’ll be a coward and will choose a nice quiet corner in Middle-Earth, maybe the Grey Havens, and settle down with a dingy and a fishing rod.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Book 2:

Darkness spreads, as prophetic warnings come to pass and a series of disturbing murders and arson attacks on the world’s great libraries and museums, multiply across the globe.

Morreck the Corruptor, an evil changeling of terrifying strength and sworn enemy of all elder races and humanity alike, has sired a ‘darkling child’, an heir that could bring about the destruction of the world.

The hunt is on and the war to end all wars is about to begin…

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Drawing, painting if I can make up some pigments from the surrounding materials available, and of course, writing.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

In no order. My dogs, my family and friends, birdsong and nature in general (especially forests, Dartmoor, blue oceans).

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Where do I start? Religion, war (often caused by religion or ego), pollution (including crappy reality TV), capitalistic greed and right-wing ***holes (the Tories and Republican Party).

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Yes, I think I would. 🙂

What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Wow, there are so many things I wish I could replay and do differently. I don’t dwell on my regrets, life is too short, but…Yes, our struggles and strife make us the people we are, but I think I could have done with less character building and more happiness. I wish I could have stood up to the toxic people in my life earlier, before they caused all the damage they did, especially my ultra-violent alcoholic father, and just told him to…ahem off and then gotten on with my life.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Again, its so tricky to pick only 5, I have about 8 indie books on the go at the moment with a TBR pile of gargantuan proportions!

  1. Vortex – by Lindsey J Parsons. I admit that this is a sentimental choice for my dear friend who sadly passed away last year, but it’s also a great book!
  2. In Search of Gods and Heroes – by Sammy HK Smith. I haven’t finished this book yet, yes I’m slow, but it’s a brilliant book already.
  3. The Cooper Promise – Jen Williams. Okay, strictly speaking not an indie author as she is with one of the Big 5 publishers, but she’s a new writer and this was her debut and from what I’ve read…wow!
  4. The Art of Forgetting – by Joanne Hall, another awesome book I have started and am hugely enjoying.
  5. Willow Weep No More – An anthology of dark fairy tales by Tenebris Books, full of real gems.
  6. Yes, it’s my birthday so I’m picking 6 books! Songs of Seraphina – by Jude Houghton. I drew the fantasy map for this book which got me really interested in reading it. I’ve only just started, but it’s great!

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Put the effort in and don’t rush yourself. Yes, there are plenty of authors out there who can whisk off a new book every few months and good luck to them, if you’re not one of those (which I certainly am not), then don’t rush yourself. Write the very best book you can and worry about time scales later, if it’s good enough it will be worth the wait. Do your research, treat the readers with respect, even if you only use a fraction of that research in your novel, the readers will thank you for putting the effort into your worldbuilding.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

SAM_5206Sophie E Tallis in her own words…

I won’t use my standard bio because, hey, I’m getting bored of it!

Okay, I’m a glacially slow writer, who loves fantasy, science-fiction and most things of a nerdish nature. After 16 years of full time teaching I’ve swapped 50+ hour weeks, horrible office politics and heavy workloads for part-time, low stress work in a library surrounded by books and lovely people! Do I miss my old job? Er, no! When I’m not working, I’m juggling writing, illustrating and managing a hectic life with my four enormous white wolves who keep life very…ahem, interesting!

My inspirations are life, great writing and the natural world around me.

My publishers, Grimbold Books, well, what can say? I owe them so much. They did a beautiful job on my novel, real care taken and what a gorgeous cover! I won’t hark on about the past, but my first publishers were terrible people to deal with, just a thoroughly horrible, scarring experience, but Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books couldn’t be more different – professional, author-friendly, honest, just lovely people who have your back and want the best for you and your novel.

My debut novel, epic fantasy, White Mountain, was re-published 1st December 2014 and I’m busy writing the sequel (slowly). I also write short stories and poetry and have 7 short stories being published this year in various anthologies.

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  • A World Of Their Own – An awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories by ‘The Alliance of Worldbuilders’ (AWB) is published 4th September 2015 (TODAY!!!!!). ALL profits go to a charity, a very worthy cause – The World Literacy Fund. I have three short stories in the anthology, ‘The Wishing Tree’, ‘Happiness is a lie’, and ‘The Artist’ as well as 6 fab illustrations. Amazon UK  &  Amazon US 
  • H is for HawkesburyH is for Hawkesbury – An anthology of short stories, poetry and novel extracts from the inaugural Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival, published 19th August 2015. I did the illustration for the front cover and have one of my favourite ‘White Mountain’ excerpts in it – Amazon UK 
  • Fight-Like-A-Girl coverFight Like A Girl – A kick-ass anthology of women writers focusing on strong female protagonists who kick arse. I have an awesome sci-fi short story in this, ‘Silent Running’. To be published Autumn/Winter 2015 by Kristell Ink.
  • The Orphan and the Iron Troll (borderless)Shadows of the Oak – A wonderfully dark collection of equally dark fairy tales and sequel to ‘Willow Weep No More’. I have a magical Russian fairy tale, ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’, in this and the illustration I did to go with it. To be published Autumn/Winter 2015 by Tenebris Books.
  • I’ll be a little mysterious now as the details still need to be worked out, but there are two brand new ‘White Mountain’ short stories I’m hoping will tide over fans until Book 2 is ready next year. Very exciting!

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Book Blurb:

A dying world hidden from our own. An ancient people conquered by human progress. A ruthless changeling bent on revenge and power…and a sorcerer and dragon determined to stop him.

Amongst our modern world, lies another. An archaic and hidden world of tradition, sorcery and magic. Lost, long before the last Ice Age and barely surviving beneath the onslaught of human advance, it now faces its greatest challenge and its bitterest enemy.

As dark demons awaken from the past and a series of sinister disappearances and murders plague the secret cities of the few remaining elder tribes, a group of disparate travellers race against time to save a friend and destroy an evil that threatens to swallow us all…

***

Thank you, Sophie. Yes, congratulations, you are survivor! A decrepit mining transport has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xxx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Gillian O’Rourke!

This is the seventh post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, check out their titles to still grab a great bargain before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our seventh author interview…the talented galactic priestess of cool…

Gillian O’Rourke

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Gillian, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

I guess the essential number one would be a water bottle, then a first aid kit, a multi-tool (Swiss army knife), rope and some chocolate bars (at least it would keep me happy! 🙂

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

If my husband was with me, I’d have to salvage him first 😉 and then photos of family and friends. Can’t forget photos of our three dogs! My iPod so I can stay motivated with music and my favourite book, Jane Eyre.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I would be the type to cautiously approach life-forms. I might watch them for a while and see if they seem friendly. That said, the chocolate bars might come in handy for bartering for help if need be!

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

It’s so hard to just pick 5 books, when I’d love to bring whole series with me, but I’ll do my best.

  1. Obernewtyn or anything, by Isobelle Carmody. I read this fantasy book at school and something in the main character struck a chord with me. Twenty years on, it’s still one of my favourite fantasy books/series.
  2. Son of the Shadows, by Juliet Marillier. I know it’s the second book in this celtic series, but it’s always been my favourite story.
  3. Myrren’s Gift, by Fiona McIntosh. It’s such an inventive story, but also very well written.
  4. The Devil’s Diadem, or anything else by Sara Douglass. She was such a talented writer and I was so sad to hear she passed away a couple of years ago. She put some amazing spins on historical characters.
  5. Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers. It’s the last book in this series, but I just loved it. It’s a mishmash of history/ fantasy and definitely my cup of tea.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

I’m a bit of a rock chick at heart, so my choices might reflect upon those lines.

  1. Ten, by Pearl Jam. Twenty years on and it’s still an amazing rock album. (I SO agree with you, I still have my LP and play it often!)
  2. Little Sparks, by Delorentos. This is an Irish band, and maybe not overly well known elsewhere, but they are so very talented.
  3. When the Pawn . . . by Fiona Apple.      
  4. Tea and Sympathy, by Bernard Fanning.
  5. Grace, by Jeff Buckley. What an amazing voice.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Can I swap vodka for bourbon? Otherwise water would be fine! 😀

Random comet question: If you had to live somewhere else, would you chose Westeros or Middle-Earth?

Brilliant and so hard to choose! I think it would be Westeros. I know it’s a harsh, dark place but there are so many interesting characters to meet, and a great mix of strong male and female characters. And three dragons. I think the three dragons make the decision easy for me.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

The Sinner’s Daughter . . .

Tamryn has a gift. Her ability to read auras is a secret one, and one she must keep when she is abducted on the night of her brother’s crowning. Taken to the land of her enemy, Tamryn dreams of escape, only to discover that the Gods she has been faithful to have other plans for her future. Escape seems futile, until a man with an aura as brilliant as a star intervenes on her behalf…

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

I’d have to take it upon myself to do some exploring and find out a little more about the planet. And try to draw a map of it. Love maps in fantasy books, so the challenge of mapping out a new world would be great. It would be a wasted opportunity not to take in a little adventure too!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

I would miss my family, friends and my dogs. Then probably the food, nothing specific now, I’m not overly fussy, but anything that tastes good (and is sweet!) And I’d definitely miss bookstores and their wonderful array of reading material.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

I guess I would have to say that I would not miss all the cruel, terrible things you see on the evening news. But then, I don’t think I would miss TV much, and certainly not the Kardashians . . . Also I wouldn’t miss selfies and everybody airing their minute by minute day on social media either! 😀

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

There’s not anything specific I would go back and change. I think we have to learn from our mistakes and experiences, how else do we develop into the “characters” we become? And think of all that wasted writing material without all those experiences (good and bad?) 

However, the idea of reliving deep space adventures sounds like a lot of fun and I think I would take that chance.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

  1. Thorn, by Intisar Khanani. It’s a lovely fairytale type book set in a middle-eastern world. Beautifully written.
  2. The Emperor’s Edge, by Lindsey Buroker. It’s a steampunkish fantasy/mystery and a very entertaining read.
  3. The Girl in the Box, by Robert J Crane. Mutants, adventure, fun!
  4. Entreat Me, by Grace Draven. A brilliant romantic retelling of Beauty and the Beast (I’m a sucker for dark fairytales).
  5. Nefertiti’s Heart, by A.W. Exley. Victorian London, Egyptology and steampunk, with a dash of romance if you’re into that sort of thing!

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Read and write what you enjoy and what makes you happy. Don’t mind what others say (unless it’s good editing advice!). Make up your own mind about what you like to read and write, even if it’s not the popular thing at the moment. It’s important to remember that everybody has their own tastes!

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

61v-OqBZrzL._UX250_[1]Gillian O’Rouke in her own words…

I’m going to cheat and give you my bio. It simplifies things!

‘Before settling down in Ireland with her husband and three dogs, Gillian O’Rourke lived in Melbourne, Australia. She received her first fantasy book from an English teacher at the age of fourteen and has loved the genre ever since. Although she writes fantasy, she occasionally dabbles in the paranormal. Gillian currently works in the healthcare sector, helping adults with disabilities live as independently as possible.’

On a quick note, I’m very lucky to be an author with Kristell Ink, which is a fantasy imprint of Grimbold Books. There are a lot of talented writers on the team, as well as editorial and creative staff. On top of that, there is an amazing choice of sci-fi and fantasy novels to read!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Waterstones

The Reluctant Prophet

Book Blurb:

There’s none so blind as she who can see . . .  Esther is blessed, and cursed, with a rare gift: the ability to see the fates of those around her. But when she escapes her peasant upbringing to become a priestess of the Order, she begins to realise how valuable her ability is among the power-hungry nobility, and what they are willing to do to possess it.  Haunted by the dark man of her father’s warnings, and unable to see her own destiny, Esther is betrayed by those sworn to protect her. With eyes newly open to the harsh realities of her world, she embarks on a path that diverges from the plan the Gods have laid out. Now she must choose between sacrificing her own heart’s blood, and risking a future that will turn the lands against each other in bloody war.  The Reluctant Prophet is the story of one woman who holds the fate of the world in her hands, when all she wishes for is a glimpse of her own happiness.

***

And as a quick note, my second novel, The Sinner’s Daughter, should be out December 2015, just in time for Christmas!

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***

 

Lol, thank you, Gillian. Yes, congratulations, you are survivor! A passing tourist cruiser has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

 

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Katie Alford!

This is the sixth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, check out their titles to still grab a great bargain before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our sixth author interview…the cosmically awesome and talented…

Katie Alford

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Katie, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

A hunting rifle, although I probably wouldn’t hit anything with it. A lighter, a must for lighting fires to cook the beasts caught with the rifle. A homing beacon, how else will I eventually get rescued? An axe, to chop down trees and make a shelter/ fence to keep away any savage alien beasts. Rope, to tie the shelter together. We’ve all learnt from poor Eeyore that just piling logs together never ends well.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My chocolate stash – It would probably feed me for a month. My laptop – Can’t live without that. A solar powered charger for said laptop, otherwise it wouldn’t last long. My phone, I have a number of unread e books on it which should keep my entertained until rescue. My teddy bear, because I’ve had her since I was born and would hate for her to go up in flames. Plus, should I be attacked by a savage alien beast I could use her as bait, sneak around behind said beast and blast its head off.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Depends how attractive they are. A little eye candy would make being marooned more bearable.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  1. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Oh, damn it! I forgot my towel.The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkozski. I’ve got no interesting excuse for this one.
  2. The thickest Twilight book, because I’ll be needing something to light the fire with.
  3. One of the Disc World novels. I can’t choose a favourite that would damn my soul forever. I’d grab whichever one is closest to hand.
  4. The Day of the Triffids, because after rereading that book my situation wouldn’t seem so bad.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  1. Queen’s Greatest Hits, so I can rock out the new world.
  2. The Heart of Everything by Within Temptation
  3. Cult by Apocalyptica
  4. Dark Passion Play by Nightwish
  5. The Macarena, because it would be fun to teach the dance to the native inhabitants and then upload the video to you tube when I get back, because let’s face it, aliens dancing the Macarena is sure to go viral.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Coco-cola because caffeine is a necessity for a writer. I couldn’t possibly live without it.

Random comet question: Bella or Katniss?

Who is Bella and Katniss? Are they going to eat me for not knowing?

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

It’s a tale of two great powers in time: Atlantis with their academics and time conservation teams and the Norse, a new rising power. The Norse’s emergence sends technological ripples out through the time steam, disturbing its peaceful waters and diverting the flow through some of the most pivotal moments in history.  After decades of quiet time watching, the Atlanteans are caught off guard by the violent changes surging down the time stream, threatening to destroy all known civilisations, even that of Atlantis itself. The Atlanteans soon find themselves battling not just to save the world but also its history. Yes, I was sad enough to make it exactly 100 words…

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Fast food outlets, I don’t think they deliver to deep space. Google Maps, very useful in avoiding getting lost. Steam Store, how am I supposed to buy new games without it? Computer repair shop, when I inevitable drop my laptop into viscous goo and realise there’s nowhere to get it fixed in deep space. The super market, because hunting beasts to live is hard work.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Cold callers – Haha! Can’t get me here! Party political broadcasts, if I want to indulge in a blatant work of fiction I’ll watch a film. Apple products – IPhones and IPads should all be shot into the nearest black hole. Frozen, because nearly every post on my facebook page mentions it and I don’t have children so I should be sheltered from it.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans):What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

I would go back in time and tell myself to pick up my Magic the Gathering decks as well before jumping into the life pod.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Depends how attractive the aliens are really.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Well there are my favourite two Kristell Ink Books, In Search of Gods and Heroes By Sammy HK Smith and Darkspire Reaches by CN Lesley.

Terry K Simpson has written many fine books including his The Quintessence Cycle Series. How he manages to churn so many out, I’ve yet to discover.

Kat Hawthorne is a very talented writer and has had both novels and a number of short stories published. Her website also looks fantastic.

And last but not least, the latest Kristell Ink release Green Sky and Sparks by Kate Coe. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’s fantastic.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Just because everyone else has read a certain book, it doesn’t mean you have to read it too.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

PhotoKMAlford2Katie Alford in her own words…

I write fantasy Sci-Fi and Steampunk and love playing computer games, strictly for inspirational purposes of course. I’m also a Digital Artist and create both 2D and 3D Computer Generated art. I even modelled and animated my own book trailer found here: Book Trailer

My publisher is Grimbold Books which have published many exceptionally good titles. You can browse them right here: Grimbold Books

Bio:

Katie was born in London and raised in Bristol. After a number of years in Middlesbrough, where she gained three degrees in 3d modelling and digital art subjects, she moved back to London, where she currently resides.

She loves playing computer games, watching anime and art and writing. She is a member of both the Kingswood Writers Group and the Greenacre Writers Group, who run the annual Finchley Literary Festival. She is really good at starting novels but not so good at finishing them, with her in progress works now into double figures.

As a day job, she works as an admin assistant which gives her many boring hours to contemplate her evening’s writing. She has won a number of short story competitions but recently realised it was taking precious time away from her novel writing and so stopped entering them, but she does now sometimes judge them instead.

The current genres she has written works in include fantasy, sci fi, steampunk, dark fantasy, folklore and detective and she has recently dabbled a bit in poetry, she is not intending to take that any further, it just seemed a good idea at the time.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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Latest Book Blurb:

For over a hundred years Atlantis, a culture of academics, has ruled the flow of time. It’s only travellers, they sought to conserve its flow and research and document the many cultures that span it. During that time, the only ripples threatening disturbance were the mischievous pranks of a few rebellious teenagers. In particular, those of a Hayden Edward Lywen whose constant pranks kept the Department of Time Conservation or DTC in high anxiety as their overworked operative Professor Lokyne was forced to run back and forth through time, restoring the timeline again and again.

Tired and rundown by the constant battle with his students, little did Lokyne know that he would soon be yearning the simplicity of dealing with rowdy teenagers. As a threat soon emerged far beyond those he’d dealt with before; a threat that would rewrite the whole of known history and plunge Atlantis into a war for which they were ill equipped and inexperienced. Can Atlantis find a way to fight back in time to stop their own culture being wiped from history, or is a new era dawning, as all cultures will eventually come to an end?

***

Oh look, is that a rescue ship I see? I hope it reaches me before that pack of vicious, alien wildlife catches up with me. I guess I ate too many of their friends.

Lol, thank you, Katie. Yes, congratulations, you are survivor! A passing medical frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Jude Houghton!

This is the fifth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, check out their titles to still grab a great bargain before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our fifth author interview…the epically talented and enigmatic…

Jude Houghton

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Jude, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

In this order:

  1. Coffee (preferably Nespresso machine with lots of capsules, no mess, no fuss)
  2. A vegetable patch.
  3. A comfortable fleece jacket which doubles as a three person tent with handy bathroom extension. (Okay, a bit of artistic license taken with that particular “device”).
  4. Music, audio books and a kindle reader courtesy of a solar powered iPhone*. (One is bound to come out sooner or later. You have to assume the planet has a big bad sun though…)
  5. A sort of crystal thing that provides a light in dark places when all other lights go out.

*Because the iphone’s light will go out once I’ve accidentally dropped it into the puddles of primordial soup a few times. Inevitable I’m afraid.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

The above. Assuming of course there are no other life forms on the ship. In which case they would be number 4 or 5 in the queue.What? No. Kidding. What I meant is: The above. Assuming there is not another ship, carefully stored within the ship, that can be wheeled out just before the whole thing goes poof…Does it have one of those? I can’t remember seeing any on Star Trek, but then again, I kind of didn’t watch it after Deep Space Nine. I mean what was that…?

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

“Dtay Tola! Dtay wonna wanga? Dtay wonna wan go.” Sorry random Bib Fortuna quote. You know, the guy with the pallor and weird snaky neck extension. Well that’s how aliens speak. But anyway… I’d smile sweetly, but keep the blaster cocked and ready. Yes, blaster. I did say I was going to salvage a blaster right? Well, it’s in the second ship actually, in the glove compartment, just by the warp speed lever.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Well…I don’t often read books twice (too many good books, too little time) so the ones that would be with me would likely be the fantasy/sci-fi on my ever growing To-Be-Read list.

However, in this specific case, I would take a couple of trusted books for insurance, just in case the new ones turned out to be stinkers. So Dune, which also seems to be a Grimbold “must have” favourite novel and…is Shakespeare, fantasy? Can we sneak in his complete works? I mean A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The Winter’s Tale? They’re pretty out there. The Tempest is the definition of early fantasy fiction… so yeh, I’m having it. Kill all the lawyers.

So… (he turns quickly to the TBR list, crosses off everything that is not fantasy and sci-fi) the next items queued on the phone and in paperback are:

Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky – it’s been 12 months in the TBR pile. It’s time has finally come!

Sophie Tallis, White Mountain – I realise that is a tad convenient, but I’m telling you the books in the queue right now! So there. Beauty is truth.

Kate Coe, Green Sky and Sparks – Another Indy I’m looking forward to.

Ernest Kline, Armada – Okay so the reviews have been terrible but I liked Ready Player One. If it turns out to be a stinker then… well… I’ll go back to re-reading Dune.

That’s six isn’t it? Well, I don’t know if I’m allowed the Complete Works. If I am, alas poor Ernest, I knew him, Horatio.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Why pick a song, when you can have a whole album? (very true!) So:

Nirvana, Nevermind – A cliché but…oh never mind.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses – Good for listening to in the baking sun if it is like the desert planet of Dune!

Massive Attack, Blue Lines – Because I believe in the one love.

Debussy, Nocturnes – More Alien than thou.

Ella Fitzgerald, Greatest Hits – For the alien moonlit nights, the whisky drinking nights, and for the times the rain comes down on the fleece-like man-tent.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Vodka. Sorry, is that even a serious question?

Random comet question: Gandalf or Dumbledore?

One defeats Balrogs, the other has a sorting hat… hmmm… tough one…

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Aghhhhhh! You’re going to eat my brain…. Aghhhhh! Unless…

Autonomy.

It’s about two strangers, born on opposite sides of the world, on the same day in 2035. It’s about Balmoral Murraine, the maimed daughter of a struggling Battery worker, and Pasco Eborgersen, the pampered son of a Sector 1 Elite. It’s about the discovery of a truth so potent, that it will rip mankind apart. And it’s about a world lived through the intermediary of iNet, of the devotions of the Faith and the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, and about the single commodity that has become more plentiful than any other. Man.

Welcome to your future.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

If I am alone; reading, writing, kicking a few of the softer alien rocks around. Maybe set up a couple of goals, and practice finishing with my left foot.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

  1. Family. – Everything else is way, way, way behind. No, I mean WAY behind. There you go.
  2. Friends. Another yawning gap.
  3. The green and blue hues peculiar to earth.
  4. The feel of the wind as it whips up from the sea.
  5. The dog.

I know what you’re thinking. The dog should be MUCH higher. But I don’t want her getting a big head. She’s insufferable as it is.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Okay, this list is in reverse order. Just to mix it up.

  1. Is one allowed to say Facebook? Yes? Oh good. You are a one.
  2. Bugs that whine in your ear and then bite you!
  3. Cars of all types, especially when not moving.
  4. Money and what it does to people.
  5. Wars of religion.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Turn back time and change? Historical or personal? Because there was the time I wore that… No, no…can any single thing really be changed without changing everything? Where would it end? Not with a sonic screwdriver and red-lined coat I can tell you.

So if I had a time machine, I’d just observe. What? Well that is the question.

As much as I could before time caught up with me. I’d want to see Cassivellaunus and his charioteers fend off Caesar’s Romans, Henry VIII joust at the Cloth of Gold, sit in the Globe before it burned down, walk through Victorian London with a couple of coppers in my pocket for the match makers and boot blacks (hopefully that wouldn’t change too much).

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

I have so many unanswered questions about this adventure that it is impossible to tell. The mad, bad and dangerous to know part of me says Yee Haa! The, where’s my life gone part, says um… let’s get in the ship, the other one, and go home and pick up a few things like…the family, the dog, a few open minded friends and pioneers, and don’t forget the droids.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Anything published by Grimbold Books. Seriously. I have now read: Dollywagglers, The Sea Sword Stone and In Search of Gods and Heroes and I really liked all of them. Queued I have…well all the rest. So that’s about fourteen to go. My self-imposed deadline to finish them is the end of this year. So I’m living that particular recommendation and enjoying every minute of it.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

The future is a series of nows, so don’t wait for tomorrow.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

Option 3Jude Houghton in his own words…

Jude Houghton developed a love of fantasy from a relatively early age after realising an innate talent for making stuff up could result in something other than detention. A somnambulist, insomniac, lover of letters, Jude writes late into the night, most nights, tumbling down the rabbit hole to dream of other lives. Jude currently lives in Pennsylvania with an over-enthusiastic family and absurdly entitled dog. And he sometimes talks in the third person.

Inspiration:

Everything around me, particularly the people I love, the books I read and the music I listen to.

Publisher:

Tenebris Books, part of Grimbold Books. www.tenebrisbooks.com

Amazon UK

Amazon US

cover_digital-191x300Songs of Seraphina blurb:

Some battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience. In this richly painted tale, at whose heart is the unbreakable bond of family and blood, the world of Seraphina collides with our own as three unique girls are dragged into twilight lives past, fighting for vengeance, retribution, and the survival of their exiled people.

***

Thank you, Jude. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing intergalactic transport has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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 Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes C.N. Lesley!

This is the fourth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

Digital-Universe-Planets-Fantasy-Space-Wallpaper-HD-Desktop-Free-Download-9899308945[1]

To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our fourth author interview…the fantastical…

C.N. Lesley

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C.N.Lesley, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

1) A solar panel for power. 2) A roomy hibernation capsule for if it is a long journey. 3) Preserved food for when I find a planet. 4) First aid supplies in case of sickness or injury. 5) My cat and his food as I need him to stop me going mad and this is the reason for the roomy hibernation capsule.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My cat, our food, first aid, water and a weapon.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I’d want to see what the life-forms were like before I went near them.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

The golden oldies because I can read and reread. Frank Herbert’s Dune, J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

I like classical music and any of the great masters would be fine.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Water straight off a glacier. There is no sweeter drink ever.

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

Love. I will admit to having accumulated a hoard when it was mooted Canada might ban it.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Not fair. I am working on several. Actually I do have an elevator pitch for Serpent of the Shangrove. Here it is: Darkspire Reaches is where it started. A creature of water has many roads open. A creature of flames racing to fire. They fought. A battle of wills with an unexpected outcome. Home, an aerie in the clouds. Someone important got left behind in the Shangrove, which feeds off magic creatures. Serpent of the Shangrove, the story continues.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Staying alive.

What things would you miss most about Earth?

Snow.

What things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Sharks and monkeys.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Interfering will distort the time line and may make things worse.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

To distant planets? Yes.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Oh stars, there are way too many good books. Giovanni Giamatao for a great horror/detective series. Jeanne Haskins has some wonderful fantasy and sci fi. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan has a neat series about John Lennon recreated in the far future. Of course, there are loads of others. And then there are the authors in the stables of small publishers. There are some great books with Grimbold Books.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Good covers are the cherry on the top meaning the book has undergone a lot of love and care. The first three chapters, or thereabouts are free on Amazon. This should be enough of a taste to see if the story is good.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

Copy of Mum_Edge_FinderC.N.Lesley in her own words…

I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and just above the Badlands where a whole bunch of dinosaur bones are found on a regular basis. My family are my dear husband, my three daughters and their guys and my three grandsons. Other kin are scattered all over the world in France, Greece, Australia, America, Sweden and New Zealand. Inspirations? Always dreams or the tag end of them. Darkspire Reaches started off with a dream about a lynch mob coming for two helpless women, who just escaped before their rickety hut was burned to the ground. Shadow Over Avalon started with a dream about the Lady of the Lake. I got to thinking what DID happen when the king fulfilled his promise and returned to fight man’s worst enemy. Obviously, this had to be a lulu of a baddie and unlike anything that has ever gone before, so the series is set in the far distant future. I was lucky enough to be accepted by Kristell Ink, the best publishers ever!

Amazon UK – Author Page (with all available books)

Amazon US – Author Page (with all available books)

Waterstones

Final version front cover (2)

Latest Book Blurb:

Arthur and Kai have escaped the threat of Emrys, but now they must face life on the surface world—and all the fearsome creatures that dwell there. But just as they assemble the beginnings of a fighting force, they discover a vital component to their safety has been compromised. This means a return to Avalon, where Arthur has an unexpected encounter with the untrustworthy Merlin. The magician’s orders are clear: Arthur must find the sword to save the surface-dwellers and Avalon. There is no alternative. Kiri Ung, leader of the Nestines and ultimate controller of the Terran slaves on the surface, needs Arthur in order to ensure of the continuance of his species. With the Nestine Queen dying, failure means ultimate extinction. Wherever Arthur goes, so goes Kiri Ung. Whoever finds the sword first gains control over all humanity. But simply gaining possession of this powerful artifact is not enough to wield its power. Let the battle commence.

***

C.N.Lesley’s other books available through Amazon and Waterstones:

Digital CoverShadow Over Avalon (2)1

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, C.N. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing long range mining ship has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Sammy HK Smith!

This is the third post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 79p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our third author interview…the galactically cool…

Sammy HK Smith

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Sammy, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Oxygen canister and mask, Food replicator (a la Star Trek), my husband’s collection of tools (he has so many!), some sort of weapon, chocolate.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

Bumbles my lion teddy bear (don’t laugh!), my wedding and engagement rings, photograph of my grandparents, my favourite pair of bum-minimising jeans!, my baby boy’s first teddy bear, Logan-bear.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Go it alone.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  • Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – beautifully written and exquisite fantasy that shows love in all its glory and with no limits.
  • Geomancer by Ian Irvine – the first fantasy book to truly blow me away. Mr Irvine’s worldbuilding is some of the best I’ve ever come across.
  • White Mountains by John Christopher – the first sci-fi book I read and loved as a child.
  • Rhapsody – Elizabeth Haydon – high fantasy with strong plot and well-executed story. Ok, the love aspect is a bit hackneyed, but it’s a guilty pleasure.
  • Shadowfall – James Clemens – I can’t explain why I love this book so much, but I do. Gods, magic, politics, treachery, betrayal… it’s amazing.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  • August and Everything After – Counting Crows. I know all the words to every song on that album. Adore it.
  • Come Find Yourself – Fun Lovin’ Criminals
  • Hello Nasty – Beastie Boys
  • 1989 – Taylor Swift
  • The Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Water. I’d like to survive for as long as possible!

Random comet questions: Sammy, as well as being an awesomely talented writer yourself, you are also a multi-tasking police officer, soon to be mum and the Creative Director and Co-founder of uber-cool publishing house, Grimbold Books, and it’s imprint, Kristell Ink!

How do you manage to juggle so many different and contrasting areas of your life?

Good question! Sometimes I don’t think I do manage to successfully juggle stuff, but then my friends politely remind me that I’m human and therefore allowed a day or week off now and then! I like being kept busy, and because I love our books and authors, it drives me on to want to help them (and us!) succeed. Small baby steps,I guess! I’m very very lucky to have a supportive husband who doesn’t mind me beavering away online late at night as well!

Have any of your experiences as either a police officer, soon to be mum or publisher informed your own creative writing?

Absolutely! Not so much with my fantasy novel, but I guess you can say that was spurred on by escapism…I haven’t met any dragons at work…

Definitely with my soon-to-be-released novel, Anna. The book is about strength of a woman, degradation, rape and abuse and how we, as humans, react differently to scenarios. It’s ok people saying ‘well I wouldn’t do that, I’d fight back and scream’. I want to actually make people think ‘would you, would you really?’ It’s proven that the amygdala side of our brain works on the 5 F’s – fight, flee, freeze, flop, friend – and so we wouldn’t necessarily react in the way we think we might. I set Anna in a dystopic world because, well, I love dystopia!

As an author-friendly UK publisher who focuses on quality, what are you looking for in new authors/submissions?

Enthusiasm, team spirit, a good social media/online presence and obviously, great work! It’s a hard industry and it doesn’t matter if you’re signed to a big publisher or a small publisher, there is an expectation for you to market yourself and your work. We work very much as a team as well and support one another across the board. It’s a very ‘co-operative’ focused set up.

We love working with new writers and if there’s a submission that isn’t quite publication ready but we love it, we’ll often work with the writer to polish it up.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Anna is graceful, Anna is meek, Anna submits. I am not Anna, but I must pretend to be her to survive.

Anna is a literary dystopian tale described as a cross between ‘The Road’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. A story of identity and strength in the face of abject humiliation and abuse, Anna explores the similarities between human nature vs nurture.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Reading, sleeping, and writing. 3 things I’ve barely got time to do at the moment!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Vast varying cultures (inc foods!), Scenery and landscapes, Our beautiful sky on a clear night Animals/Wildlife, Chocolate.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Government, War, Famine, Religion, Spiders.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I could take my loved ones with me, but if not, I doubt it. I’d miss too many people! Also, I’m a bit of a wuss and love my creature comforts…

What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

In my personal life, I regret not telling my Nanny how much I loved her more. She knew (of course) but she was the most important female figure in my life and I wish I told her just how inspirational I found her.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Songs of Seraphina – Jude Houghton (Tenebris Books) – my first choice is the beautifully written YA split worlds novel by Jude. It’s simply gorgeous. The prose, the stylisation and story, everything. The first time I read this novel I wanted to *be* one of the characters, and nowadays that doesn’t happen to me often! Fantasy that has the charm of Lewis, but the intelligence of Pullman and Gaiman. Breed – K.T Davies (Fox Spirit) – Full of twists and turns, this is clever fantasy with a fresh voice. It follows the ‘quest’ story, but instead makes it original and new. Magic paradoxes are great fun too… The Sun Shard – Rob Bayliss – Epic fantasy tale that I found was written in a very unique voice. It felt quite ominous in places and as though a bard or storyteller was weaving through the scenes. So this gets on the list for unique stylisation and great worldbuilding. Under My Skin – Zoe Markham (Carina) – Described as re-imagining of Frankenstein, this is one I bought recently and read almost in one sitting. YA/Gothic with bits of fantasy and even sci-fi nods, I was really impressed as to how Zoe brought all the genres together. It’s wonderfully written. What The Town Knew – C.W.Farley – I first read this on the author’s blog as they released sections bit by bit. Not my usual genre of choice, but written in the second person tense it drags you into a world of domestic violence, murder, broken relationships and lies. It’s simply excellent.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Read and write what you enjoy and love, not what you think other people want you to do. Passion shines through. If you get knocked down, get straight back up and keep going. Times are hard for writers, but persevere and push.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

untitledSammy in her own words…

Ahhh, you’ve probably realised I’m quite a ‘straight to the point’ person with my responses to this interview, so here goes: I’m a full-time detective in the police, part-time uni student and soon-to-be first time mummy. I live in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside with my very patient husband, 14 cats and 2 dogs. I write in lots of genres, but my favourite is fantasy and sci-fi. My debut novel ‘In Search of Gods and Heroes’ is a mythological and metaphysical multiple POV story of gods and mortals set over three worlds. It even has a talking cat… If you like complex characters, dragons, twists and turns and rather unlikeable protagonists, this might be the book for you! I co-run Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink and love to read and promote new authors and writers. I’m inspired by all things, positive and negative, and believe that through literature and stories you can help heal the deepest hurts.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Waterstones

ISOGAH Digital CoverBlurb:

Buried in the scriptures of Ibea lies a story of rivalry, betrayal, stolen love, and the bitter division of the gods into two factions. This rift forced the lesser deities to pledge their divine loyalty either to the shining Eternal Kingdom or the darkness of the Underworld.
When a demon sneaks into the mortal world and murders an innocent girl to get to her sister Chaeli, all pretence of peace between the gods is shattered. For Chaeli is no ordinary mortal, she is a demi-goddess, in hiding for centuries, even from herself. But there are two divine brothers who may have fathered her, and the fate of Ibea rests on the source of her blood.
Chaeli embarks on a journey that tests her heart, her courage, and her humanity. Her only guides are a man who died a thousand years ago in the Dragon Wars, a former assassin for the Underworld, and a changeling who prefers the form of a cat.
The lives of many others – the hideously scarred Anya and her gaoler; the enigmatic and cruel Captain Kerne; the dissolute Prince Dal; and gentle seer Hana – all become entwined. The gods will once more walk the mortal plane spreading love, luck, disease, and despair as they prepare for the final, inevitable battle.
In Search of Gods and Heroes, Book One of Children of Nalowyn, is a true epic of sweeping proportions which becomes progressively darker as the baser side of human nature is explored, the failings and ambitions of the gods is revealed, and lines between sensuality and sadism, love and lust are blurred.

Book Blurb for Latest Book – Anna:

There is an old lie: dulce est decorum est. In a post-apocalyptic world where societal regression has left women branded like prized chattel, one woman fights for the only thing she has left: herself. Stripped of her identity she becomes ‘Anna’, a persona she adopts to protect her true self, and she must learn to accept the loss of everything and everyone she ever loved in the war that tore the world apart. Anna is gracious. Anna is submissive. But Anna is also strong. Kidnapped, raped, and forced into a subservient role by a man who claims to love her, she watches people turn on each other for food, for fuel, for sex, for status and, for fun. Strength comes in many forms, and ANNA tells the story of one woman who becomes someone else in order to free herself.

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Thank you. Congratulations, Sammy, you are survivor! A passing Starfury and its pilot, Kara Thrace, have honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx