Distant Worlds – Welcomes AFE Smith!

Well, amidst a sea of tears over the devastating news that one of my all-time idols, David Bowie has died at the age of only 69, I will post this blog as planned as a little tribute to creativity for which David Bowie was such a master. RIP Davy Jones, we all love you and will feel your loss for the rest of our lives…  (1947 – 2016) 😦 ❤ xxxx

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The silly season is over and 2016 beckons with the promise of yet more great books to read and new authors to discover. I hope in some small part that this series helps to spotlight some of these hidden gems. So, for the first interview of 2016 and the eighteenth outing of this series, we have a treat…author extraordinaire, AFE Smith.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (today’s interviewee! – 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…so today I’m a little nervous interviewing ‘Barren Island Books’ interviewer AFE Smith herself!

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.

Fire-Planet[1]The Distant Worlds strand started last year, 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. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

10628434_901588523202885_688426025216875644_n[1]

A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our eighteenth author interview and our sixth AWB member, the Spymaster general herself, the mysterious fantasy writer…

AFE Smith

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AFE, 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?

If this were a normal stranded-survivor story, I would probably die after about a day, because I have no practical skills whatsoever. But I’m going to assume that since I’m part of a space colony, I come from a scientifically advanced society that can supply me with some whizzy gadgets. So I’d go for:

Some kind of respiratory mask. The planet may be habitable but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got viciously adaptable micro-organisms. I don’t want to be knocked off my feet by alien flu while I’m trying to survive.

A water purifier/air-to-water distiller. For many of the same reasons. And I want to have enough to drink even if I land on a part of the planet where rain is infrequent and waterways are scarce.

A strong, lightweight tent with enough insulation to keep me warm at night.

A solar-powered survival manual so I can look up which plants are safe to eat, how to make fire, etc. If it could say DON’T PANIC in large friendly letters on the cover, that would be a bonus.

And talking of which, a Babel fish.

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

Given that I’m going to be carrying my home on my back for a while, I’d better not take anything heavy or bulky. I’d definitely take a photo of my family. And my laptop (assuming I can get a solar-powered battery pack), allowing me to keep a log of my adventures in case (a) I die horribly and future space explorers want to find out what happened to me, or (b) I survive the whole thing and can turn my experiences into a blockbuster movie starring Matt Damon. But other than that, I’ll give up all my personal possessions and stick to the survival gear, thanks.

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

It depends what my survival manual has to say about the indigenous population. If they are friendly, great. Hopefully they can help me build a transmitter to send a distress signal back to Earth. But if they’re the kind of life-forms who like to sacrifice human cattle to the great god Belzi’iar, I’ll steer well clear.

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

I guess I have a solar-powered e-reader with me too, then! Fantasy novels are BIG, on the whole, and I don’t fancy lugging them around with me.

I would take the complete works of Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, Diana Wynne Jones and Juliet Marillier. All of those are comfort reads and I figure I’m going to need a lot of comforting. (And yes, I know taking ‘complete works’ is a total cheat, but the beauty of e-readers is that you can fit a vast quantity of books on them, and since I’m about to be slaughtered by a worshipper of Belzi’iar I hope you’ll cut me some slack.)

I’d also take my own complete works, such as they are. Not because I think they deserve to survive over anything else, but because being stranded on an alien planet might actually give me a better chance of meeting my current writing deadline than I have right now.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

I never get to listen to music any more, other than the Frozen soundtrack (thanks, three-year-old). Hey, this is going to be great! I’m actually looking forward to this terrible disaster now!

I reckon I should choose as wide a range of music as possible, to stand the greatest chance of bonding with the aliens over music and thereby convincing them not to dig my intestines out with a spoon. So I’d take The Beatles’ White Album, Wishbone Ash’s Argus, Steeleye Span’s Commoner’s Crown, my Max Bruch/Mendelssohn album of violin concertos … heck, and the Frozen soundtrack. It would remind me of my children.

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?

I haven’t drunk alcohol for nearly five years, so it would take very little vodka to drown my sorrows. And since I haven’t yet managed to make myself a toothbrush (dammit, should have claimed that as one of my personal possessions!) I’d better avoid the Coke. So I’ll stick to water.

Random comet question: As a hard working editor and new mum to two little ones, how do you juggle your life to ensure that you have ‘writing time’?

Ha! That makes it sound like I have some sort of plan! With a full-time job and two young children, the only writing time I have is in the evenings after everyone has gone to bed. But of course, that’s the only time I have to get anything else done, too. I’d say I manage a handful of evenings per week … assuming I don’t just fall asleep, which happens far too often and proves that I’m older than I’d like to think.

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! 

What? That’s even worse than being sacrificed to Belzi’iar!

No, wait, that didn’t count as part of my 100 words … what do you mean, these words count too? That’s not fair! I –

OK. Fine. OK.

Since I’m rapidly running out of words, I’ll just say that my latest book is a sequel to my first, and they both feature shapeshifters, pistols, an industrial city, a big chunk of mystery, a dash of romance, and people trying to kill each other in a variety of interesting ways. You ought to appreciate that, brain-eating alien.

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

Trying not to die. If I succeeded at that, I would write increasingly delirious streams of consciousness on my laptop whilst talking to a nearby tree upon which I had drawn a smiley face.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Chocolate. The landscapes (these long spindly purple trees are all very well, but they’re not like home). Other humans. New books. Did I mention chocolate?

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Politicians. War. Other humans. Creepy crawlies (please tell me there are no spiders on this planet). Constantly feeling like a failure (I figure if I survive this new situation, that automatically makes me a success – and if I don’t, I won’t care because I’ll be dead.)

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

Nothing. The things I’d like to change are large enough that they’d have profound knock-on effects. I’ve read and watched enough time-travel stories to know that’s a terrible idea and would probably result in my own extinction. And the smaller things wouldn’t be worth the effort (I mean, I’d like not to have been such a total disaster in secondary school, but I don’t think it’s worth the cost of a TARDIS).

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

Yeah. Why not? It’s been fun, if you ignore the bloodthirsty aliens and gradual descent into madness.

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

Harriet Goodchild – beautiful, complex, poetic fantasy with a real love of language.

Evangeline Jennings – taut, gripping, often sexy and always brutal femme noir. (If you don’t know what femme noir is, you should totally go and find out.)

Hazel Butler – fascinating, myth-drenched Gothic fantasy that blends darkness and light to great effect.

S.L. Huang – action-packed sci-fi with a kick-ass mathematician heroine. (Maths-based superpowers FTW!)

W.R. Gingell – gentle, tongue-in-cheek fantasy romance mysteries. Think Georgette Heyer with magic.

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

Always know where your towel is. (Dammit! Towel! That’s another useful personal possession I could have claimed! Can I go back in time and change the answer to my time-travel question to say I’d change what personal possessions I took with me … no? Too complicated? OK.)

Don’t be like me, children. Appreciate your towel while you have it.

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

Author_photo_DARKHAVEN_AFE_SmithAFE in her own words…

That’s a HUGE question to end on. Er … I am a fantasy writer, an editor, a Ravenclaw and a robin, not necessarily in that order. You may already have gathered that I have a weird sense of humour (there’s a reason I don’t write comedy; no-one else ever thinks the same things are funny). I have two children, neither of whom I want to sacrifice to the great god Belzi’iar (though sometimes it’s a close-run thing).

My inspirations are as varied as life itself. That’s a nicely pretentious statement, so I’ll just leave that one there.

My publisher is Harper Voyager. They also publish people like Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin and Mark Lawrence. Which makes me feel rather like I’ve accidentally gate-crashed a celebrity party and now I’m sitting quietly in a corner, hoping no-one will notice me and tell me to go away.

Bio:

A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

AFE social media links:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Cover_image_DARKHAVEN_AFE_SmithBook Blurb:

Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven.

Yet her half-brother Myrren hasn’t inherited the family’s ability to shapeshift, so their father, Florentyn, forces Ayla to take over as heir to the throne.

When Ayla is accused of Florentyn’s brutal murder only Myrren believes her innocent and aids her escape. A fugitive from her own guard, Ayla must now fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

But does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

DARKHAVEN buy links

HarperCollins Amazon (global link) Waterstones Barnes & Noble Google play iBooks Kobo

Goldenfire cover mediumAFE Smith’s new book being released by Harper Voyager this week on January 14th 2016!

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GOLDENFIRE preorder links

HarperCollins Amazon Barnes & Noble Google play iBooks Kobo

***

 

Thank you, AFE. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing Illyrian mining vessel has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

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Distant Worlds – Welcomes Sam Dogra!

This is the seventeenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble 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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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, 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. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

10628434_901588523202885_688426025216875644_n[1]

A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our seventeenth author interview, and our fifth AWB member, the Vice Captain (VC) herself, the doctor of chaos and large weapons of mass destruction (she’s soon to be a REAL doctor!), dark paranormal fantasy writer and artist…

Sam Dogra

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Sam, 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?

Wow, talk about being thrown in the deep end! Well, I’d probably want my medical bag (which I take to work; it has all sorts of useful equipment in it), a water bottle/ container of some kind, my smartphone and its solar powered charger (is that two items?), and my old tent.

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

My paperback copy of Sabriel, a photo of my family, a stash of chocolate/ cake I’d undoubtedly be carrying, my cuddly toy dragon and my sketchbook!

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

Seek life-forms for sure, I’m definitely not the outdoors type.

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

Well, Garth Nix’s Sabriel, as aforementioned. It was the first fantasy book I read and it remains my all-time favourite. I’d also take Alison Croggon’s Books of Pellinor (if I’m just allowed one it would be the fourth one, The Singing), as this was the first ‘heavy’ fantasy I actually like [sorry to say I am NOT a fan of Tolkein at all!]. I’d also bring Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasy Land, as I love how it makes fun of various fantasy Tropes. I’d then bring along the third book of Julia Golding’s Companions Quartet (The Mines of the Minotaur), as it’s a fantastic look into the relationship between mythical creatures and humans. And last but not least, Bardo by Chris McKenna, a fun-filled adventure exploring the theme of reincarnation and rebirth.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

To be honest I’m not that much of a music fan, and my taste is pretty acquired! I’d be happy with my Japanese Vocaloid songs, and I also quite like the talented violin work of Lindsey Stirling. I also like the work of Hiroyuki Sawano, who does a lot of anime soundtracks.

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?

Could I mix the coca-cola with the vodka? (Absolutely!)

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

I’ve never tried it so…something to add to my lists of regrets?

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! 

Crikey, right then! My book follows Eliza, a girl who falls prey to a curse that forces people to fall in love. She’s ‘Bound’ to Ryan, a bounty hunter with secrets of his own. So, Eliza must break her curse, before Ryan finds out they’re Bound and before his past catches up with him. Of course, Eliza gets more than she bargained for. So, as she searches for a cure that’s not guaranteed to work, and has her heart turned inside out with feelings that aren’t her own, she also needs to come to terms with how her choices affect those around her.

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

Well once the basics of food, water and shelter were covered, I’d like to explore, study the wildlife and plants, and perhaps draw them in my sketch book. In between sending transmissions for help, of course!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Internet! My family too, along with video games, the concept of dessert, and of course my friends.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Mobile phone companies, traffic, bigoted know-it-alls, deadlines, and people who are two-faced.

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

Hmm…nothing immediately springs to mind! Perhaps being more sociable at University and that I’d kept in touch with more people.

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

To be honest, no! I am firmly on the side of Earth exploration when it comes to whether we should explore space/ home first (and I’ve got a book in the works addressing this topic…)

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

Hmm…well I’d recommend Bardo by Chris McKenna as above, as it’s so much fun to read. I’d also recommend Simon Wilson’s Yuko Zen is Somewhere Else, which has an adorable quirky style. The Binding Stone by Lisa Gail Green is a great character study involving djinns, and I’d also recommend Thorn by Intisar Knanani, a very well-written take on an old fairytale for when you just want to be swept away. Finally I’d also recommend The Spirit Keeper by Melissa Garrett, an enchanting romance with Native American themes.

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

No idea is stupid, but unless you give it structure it can end up that way! So even if you’re one of those ‘write it as it comes’ authors, please do not underestimate the importance of having a framework to maintain consistency.

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

Sam DograSam in her own words…

I am an (overworked) doctor working for the NHS. I’m in my final year of General Practice training and exams pending I’ll be a fully-fledged GP by next August. In between seeing patients, writing reports, and doing home visits, I dabble in fantasy fiction writing and digital fantasy art, the latter of which you can sample at http://sam241.deviantart.com .

Unlike most other writers, I’m not particularly inspired by books; I take a lot more from video games and Japanese anime (my age is showing 🙂 ). The Binding came about as I was doing my hospital job shadowing (way back in 2011) and was taking some blood samples to the lab. I just saw an image of a girl sitting alone in a dark forest because she had a vulnerable heart, and everything just sprang from there. As a wild guess I’d say the Kingdom Hearts series (video games) was probably the main influence, as well as the anime Romeo x Juliet as I borrowed a few of the aesthetics from there. Not to mention my general dislike of the romance genre and its mistreatment of plot 😉

Sam’s Amazon UK Author Page

Sam’s Amazon US Author Page

Bio:

Sam Dogra is a junior doctor working in the UK, and is currently training to become a General Practitioner. Between reviewing drug charts and X-rays, taking blood, saving lives and getting grilled by consultants, she also writes fantasy fiction and is a fantasy artist. She has co-written ‘Fated: A Timeless Series Companion Novel’ with author Lisa Wiedmeier, and has also published her first novel The Binding, and its sequel, The Parting, with a third book in progress.

She’s widely travelled, and has enjoyed her visits to France, Germany, Norway, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Rhodes, Turkey, Cyprus, Lesvos, India, Dubai, Australia, Canada and Idaho, Washington, New York, Seattle and Alaska, USA. Her other main interest is fantasy art.

In what little spare time she has, Sam also enjoys reading, baking, shopping, watching movies and anime, astrology, video games, collecting cuddly toy animals, and photography.

Additional Links:

Website/ blog: http://indigolightning.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Chronicles-of-Azaria-Series/229718793739428

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MadDoctorArtist

 Artwork: http://sam241.deviantart.com

The PartingLatest Book Blurb

When your feelings are false, what’s left to believe in?

After the revelation of Ryan’s secret, Eliza is determined to reclaim her lost freedom. Her only hope lies in the Holy Runes—the mysterious symbols linked to the creation of the Binding spell itself. Now with her best friend Adam and the haughty Lady Navinka, Eliza must journey across Azaria to forge a power great enough to break her curse.

The Binding isn’t going down without a fight, though, and the runes aren’t without ill effects of their own. As if that wasn’t enough, a dark cult seeking revenge is out for Eliza, and she must deal with her troubled feelings for Ryan and Adam. Struggling on all fronts just to survive, Eliza’s freedom will be hard-earned, but will the final price be too much to pay?

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Sam’s other fabulous books!

The Binding515I4HohFjL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_[1]

Thank you, Sam. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing medical drone ship has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

outer%20space%20planets%20space%20station%20science%20fiction%20asteroids_wallpaperswa.com_8[1]

Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Katrina Jack!

This is the sixteenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble 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 (yes, the interview goddess herself is being interviewed this week!) 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.

outer-space-planets-hd-background-wallpaper-51[1]

The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, 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. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

10628434_901588523202885_688426025216875644_n[1]

A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our sixteenth author interview, and our forth AWB interview, the Midnight Marauder herself, Queen of interviews and dark urban fantasy, the wonderful…

Katrina Jack

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Katrina, 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?

Hmm, only 5? Hard to choose. Well first would have to be my laptop, so I could write about what I see. Then there’s my cat, Meg, for company. I’d also have to have a box of cat food, ‘cos she nags incessantly to be fed. I’d also have to have a pad and pen to make notes about my adventure. Oh, and several bars of chocolate.

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

My Kindle, can’t live without that. My comfy slippers, ‘cos I have flat feet. My leopard print pyjamas; alright, I’ve got no taste, but I like ‘em. My favourite fluffy blanket, and last, but not least, a family sized bottle of diet Pepsi.

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

I probably would seek out other life-forms, but I’d watch them from a distance for a while, to see if they were friendly or likely to bite my head off.

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

Oh it’d have to be any of Terry Pratchett’s discworld novels, because they make me laugh and his characters are fantastic. And a book I’ve recently discovered, via the TV series, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. The series was fantastic. For once the BBC had actually spent money, as the production values were superb. The book is beautifully written, with vivid characterisation and marvellous narrative and dialogue.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Holst’s Planet Suite, Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell, Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, and Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable.

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?

No brainer – vodka.

Random comet question: If you could live in any fictional world, what would it be and why?

I’d live in Ankh-Morpork, a fabulous city, on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Why? Because it’s a crazy, hilarious place filled with magic. mayhem & wizards.

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! 

Okay. My latest book, still a work in progress, is called Elawyn’s Song, book one in The Songstress Trilogy. Basically this is a follow on from The Silver Flute Trilogy. It details the journey of Elawyn, who possess a singing voice so pure, it can cause cities to topple. At the end of the last book of The Silver Flute Trilogy, Elawyn has been contaminated by demon blood and must find a way to cure herself.

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

Reading, writing and eating chocolate.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

The parks around where I live. My brother. My house. My friends. Social media.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

The place where I work, although I like the people I work with. All the bloody stupid wars that are going on. Social inequality. Politics. The banking system.

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

The loss of my father.

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

Yes, I think I would. They do say travel broadens the mind and mine’s on the verge of stagnation at the moment.

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

Your good self, as White Mountain is a wonderfully epic journey of a read. The characters are literally magic, and the illustrations superb. Tricia Drammeh, for the same reason. I’ve read book 1 in her Spellbringers series, Spellbound, an absolutely gripping, paranormal story. Jane Dougherty’s The Dark Citadel, book 1 of her The Green Woman series. Set in a dystopian world, it’s a magnificent blend of myth and legend. The Binding, by Sam Dogra. An unusual tale of a girl’s struggle to lead her own life and the often traumatic journey she takes to try and achieve this. And last, but not least, our dear friend, Lyndsey Parson’s Vortex, Return of the Effra. A beautiful classic fantasy. The story is split between this world and one filled with fantastical creatures that seize the reader’s imagination and carry it away into a wonderful blend of war, romance and adventure.

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

I always give the same advice: craft your work until it shines, and most importantly, never give up on your dream. As for readers, if you like a book, leave a review.

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

kjKatrina in her own words…

Well, I’m a fifty something year old woman. I’m single and I reside in the city of my birth, Liverpool, and the source of most of my inspiration, along with different types of music. The inspiration for Land of Midnight Days, and subsequently the other two books, came from The Littlewoods building in Liverpool and a Jethro Tull album. I’ve written since I was aged about fourteen and could read before I even started school. I have three books published, by Ecanus Publishing under the Banner heading The Silver Flute Trilogy. The genre is YA urban fantasy and they’re available from:

Waterstones

Katrina’s Amazon UK Author Page

Katrina’s Amazon US Author Page

Bio:

I began writing many years ago and Land of Midnight Day was my first published work. A few years back I had a bit of a windfall and invested some of it in obtaining a degree in creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University.

Although I primarily write urban fantasy, I also enjoy other genres, such as murder mysteries, romance and biographies. My favourite authors, in the fantasy genre are: Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, David Gemmell, Jack Vance and many more.

I was born in October 1956, in the wonderful city of Liverpool, at the now demolished hospital known as Sefton General, which was so ill equipped in those days, that my poor mother’s drip was hung from an old broom pole! Talk about the lap of luxury, eh? 

I still live in Liverpool, in an area rich in public gardens and parks, plus a cemetery and a crematorium – great for inspiration, believe it or not. Included in some of the wonderful historical buildings in the area, is the mansion house known as Allerton Hall, former home of Richard Lathom, who fought as a Royalist during the civil war and is a grade II listed building. It makes a guest appearance in my novel, under a different guise of course.

dawn horizonLatest Book Blurb

Jeremiah has at last reached the end of a long road, which has led him from his native city, into the Gloaming and ended in the Midnight Land itself. Despair, tragedy, and the precious silver flute, have accompanied him every step of the way. 

He must now face up to whatever awaits him there – good or bad. No matter what the outcome is, he must close the gates to the Midnight Land and restore freedom to, not only his own world, but all the others weighed down by the oppression of evil. 

Will he succeed?

Katrina’s other fabulous books:

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***

Thank you, Katrina. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing military frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

A Year of Wonder…!

Today, is a special day – not just the 1st of a new month (pinch punch sort of thing), and the first day of the festive season (I LOVE Christmas and yes, I already have my trees up and decorated and excitedly switched the lights on this morning before work :D!) … BUT today marks the 1 year anniversary of my novel, WHITE MOUNTAIN, being published! YAY!!!!!! 😀9781909845978[1]

A year ago today, my epic fantasy was born or should I say re-born in all its glory by a fantastic publisher, Grimbold Books, who prizes quality above anything else and who truly GOT IT!

I owe them so many thanks, not least for producing a book of tremendous quality from the awesome cover to the calligraphy inside, from the production values to the formatting of text and my illustrations (a fiddly thing at the best of times…when was the last time you read an illustrated novel?), (thank you to Alex Bardy the God of Typesetting!). Everything was done with care and more than a pinch of love and I genuinely think it shows. Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink also restored my very shaken faith in the integrity and honesty of people after my dreadful first publisher experience. To say Grimbold are the polar opposite to the cretins I first signed with, would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions! So, a massive thank you to Sammy HK Smith and Zoe Harris for taking a chance on me and everyone at Team Grimbold…I love you guys! 😀 xxx White Mountain full book jacket

So, on this happy book anniversary it seems fitting to take a breath and look back at the wondrous whirlwind year its been and share a few of the highlights!

1st Dec 2014 – My reaction was as always, understated and subtle… 😀 SAM_5228

To my delight, not only did White Mountain gain lots of new readers and admirers but many fans of the first flawed book bought the second improved version too, just to read how the story should have been told. Thank you to all my fans, old and new! I really appreciate your support! ❤ xxx 10407894_10153042995986950_697215546084611716_n[1]

After my first ever Book Fair at the Welsh ICE Book Fair on 29th Nov, I followed that up by my first ever reading in Bristol at the ‘Fairies at the bottom of the garden’ event Sat 13th Dec. I was VERY nervous, but it was great fun. 😀 10614253_846486532082170_6044863703050848758_n[1]

After another successful book signing at the lovely Books & Pontyclun bookshop on December 20th where I formed a great friendship with Book Lady extraordinaire and White Mountain mega-fan, Emily Hannah Rogers now Mrs Emily Hannah King! (She’s on her honeymoon trip around the world…I was hoping to sneak inside her suitcase when I heard she was going to my beloved New Zealand!). SAM_5401

The new year brought yet more wonderful signings and ‘booky’ events. Signing at the fab Books On The Hill Bookshop in Clevedon in February with Alistair Sims and Chloe, lol, and being photographed for the Somerset Times Newspaper…gulp! My signing at Books On The Hill

In March, my second Book Fair and more signings this time at prestigious Chepstow Bookshop in the shoes of my hero David Attenborough! Thank you to Matt and to my lovely mate Will who popped along to say “Hello!”

April, saw me attending my very first Literary Festival as an author and illustrator for the inaugural Hawkesbury-Upton Lit Fest organised by self-published author extraordinaire, Debbie Young, to celebrate World Book Night. 51LK1eQJXNL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_[1]My poetry readings (my first ever) went down a storm and my White Mountain reading got people so hooked they grabbed another few sales! Yay! I also meet famous author, Katie Fforde, who posed for a photo op! 😀 SAM_6754

The month of May was busy busy busy, juggling illustration commissions and lots of events, the highlights being another signing at lovely Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester and my third public book reading as part of BristolCon Fringe alongside fellow fantasy author, Ben Galley. May also saw me going see one of my favourite authors, Kazuo Ishiguro, at the Hay Festival – where he signed two books for me and chatted about the prejudice the fantasy genre faces from the literarti, what an awesome experience! SAM_6855 (2)

In June, White Mountain continued to soar in the Amazon charts and gained yet more wonderful REVIEWS – THANK YOU! This little blog seemed to explode, with a couple of days gaining over 600 visitors each day! Yet more illustrations and yes, lots of writing, including a dark fairy-tale short story, ‘The Orphan and The Iron Troll’ The Orphan and the Iron Trollto be published in upcoming dark anthology, Shadows Of The Oak and a gritty sci-fi space opera short story, ‘Silent Running’ for the upcoming awesome Fight Like A Girl anthology alongside big fantasy hitters like Juliet E McKenna, Danie Ware, Gaie Sebold, K.T. Davies, Kim Lakin-Smith, Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall among others! Wow! Very honoured and rather humbled to be in such company. (gulp) Fight-Like-A-Girl-V2-400ppi[1]

July was hot and awesome in equal measure…but the highlight of highlights had to be the honour of being invited as an author and illustrator to take part in the prestigious Cirencester Literary Festival, running my own illustration workshop as one of the main events! The place, Bingham Gallery in Cirencester, was absolutely PACKED! The event was a tremendous success and went brilliantly, and I even managed to control my nerves! July also saw me starting my Distant Worlds author interview series on this blog, which has been such fun and has had such a tremendous response. 😀 CJi9mo3WEAAGHFn[1] (2)11059440_1736544409906170_5015057545228280997_n[1]11822572_1736544419906169_8415676657590741700_n[1]11406151_1717954358431842_1815668094057261589_o1[1]

September, apart from my birthday (gulp), saw the eventual release of the Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) first anthology, A World Of Their Own, the fruition of four years hard work. The anthology is dedicated to my dear friend and fellow AWB member, Lindsey J Parsons who died so suddenly in January 2014, with ALL profits from the book going to charity – so it makes the perfect Christmas present. 10628434_901588523202885_688426025216875644_n[1]

I still miss Linds so much, especially late at night when my insomnia kicks in and I need to talk to someone and bounce ideas of…or chat stupidly like we often did until 3am! 😦

Anyway, after the anthology publication the rest of the month was dominated by the insanely cool BristolCon run by Joanne Hall. It took place at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Bristol, where I was not only attending as an author on my first ever panel (alongside Jasper Fforde) but was also CHAIRING a panel on the apt subject of Libraries. I also got to finally meet Emma Newman which was very cool as was seeing my mate, Joanne Hall, have her awesome book launch! SAM_7710

October was a mad blur of more book fairs and signings but the highlight was an epically AWESOME 5 days up in Nottingham with my fellow Grimbold band of brothers and sisters for FantasyCon!!!! WOW!!! Where to start? Such cool panels, talks, lots of fun events, me singing Blondie and Adele at my first ever Karaoke…and yes, I didn’t completely embarrass myself! Meeting Brandon Sanderson, hanging out with my new cool friends, eating copious amounts of pizza, cake and burgers (diet was on hiatus), Steven Poore (fellow Grimbold cat) having his awesome book launch at the Con, SAM_8039playing Cards Against Humanity and my 1981 board-game, Dark Tower and cheering on the wonderful Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit Books as they won Best Independent Press at the British Fantasy Awards. SAM_8064Highlights, have to be my decision to make a visual record of the Con by sketching people. Amongst some decidedly dodgy drawings (sorry Jo, I will draw you again honey and do a better job!), I got to eventually meet the very cool Jen Williams who I’d missed at BristolCon. Not only did Jen and Brandon sign the sketches I did of them, Jen very kindly posed for a piccie with it too! SO COOL!!! 😀 SAM_7981Had SUCH an amazing time! SAM_8100SAM_7917

Then, suddenly it was November and my fellow cool Grimbold cat and talented writer, Kate Coe (who I shared a hotel room with and who had to put up with my snoring!), had encouraged me to do something I have been avoiding since 1999…National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWrMo (Nano)! NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square[1]

Knowing what a slow sod I am when it comes to writing, yes hopefully I write quality stuff, but do I need to be so goddamn slow? – well, knowing that, how could I of all people possibly hope to write a massive 50,000 words in just one month. Geared up by Kate’s enthusiasm that I could in fact do it…I plunged into it head long! I also took part in a little sword fighting play at Kate’s place for one of the Nano Write-In’s with Adrian Faulkner, a master swordsman and very cool fantasy writer. 12196097_10153633033412254_1672540370840878677_n[1]SAM_7910

So, November was spent ignoring emails, ignoring the TV, Facebook, friends and relatives and just writing, writing, writing…and…on Sunday 29th November, a whole day early for my first ever Nano…I achieved my impossible goal, I reached 50,143 words of my new dark fantasy, RAVENWING. Ravenwing

That was two days ago, and I’m still reeling from it. For me, this Nano challenge was also a deeply personal and important one. I wasn’t just challenging myself to write a huge amount of words in a short time, I was challenging my illness and saying YES, I CAN DO THIS! Nano Winner 2015 Certificate

As many of my friends know, I was struck down by a nasty illness a couple of years ago and that has badly impacted on my writing, making me slower again but also making the sheer effort and mental strain of concentrating for the longer periods needed to write, very very difficult indeed. This has meant that the sequel to my beloved, White Mountain, has been very slow in the making (a big thank you again to my VERY patient publishers!). So…for me, Nano was also an opportunity to show myself that I can do it, to kickstart my White Mountain sequel, and that’s what I intend to do!

So…to start as I mean to continue, here is an exclusive for all my White Mountain fans…

The sequel, DARKLING RISEis coming (promise), but to tide you all over…there will be two brand NEW White Mountain short stories published next year!!!!

A Friendship Forged – is a wonderful back story of how Mr. Agyk and Gralen first meet with some awesome fight sequences and more than a few hints about Book 2 and tie-in events from White Mountain.

The Siege of Kallorm – is the back story of Korrun, why he is such an angst character. It charts his fateful fall from grace, from being a hero figure, the Captain of the Kallorm City Guard to becoming a vilified, hated figure after he makes the worst of mistakes. Can you ever atone for your sins? The Siege of Kallorm sketch

Both new stories are coming soon…watch this space!

***

So…there you go, a year of madness, mayhem, wonderful weirdness, lots of ‘firsts’, and a real personal turning point.

I wonder…what on earth will the next year bring?!

See you all there, for yet more fun…roll on 2016! 😀 xxxxx

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😀 ❤ xxxxx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Andrea Baker!

This is the fifteenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble 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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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, 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. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our fifteenth author interview, and our third AWB interview, our very own fantasy castle of paranormal loveliness…

Andrea Baker

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Andrea, 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?

Oh there are so many unanswered questions about this distant world Sophie, and my first thought was my family, but as I wouldn’t travel without them they’d be right there with me! So, all that said…

  1. Water filtration system, with enough spares to keep us going for a while, until we could find suitable clean water to maintain life.
  2. Medical pack, being a practical person, making sure the flint is in there for starting a fire, as the difference between night and day can be hundreds of degrees.
  3. Books – the whole pod library if I could get it down there, I’d need something to take my mind away and allow me to dream.
  4. As much food as we could carry, to give us chance to check out the supplies on the planet first, rather than poisoning ourselves on day one.
  5. A communication system, so we can keep track of what is happening on Earth

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

That’s a difficult one, and some things would be with me anyway, so they don’t count in the five, do they? I’m thinking of the rings my husband gave me that I always wear. The others, let’s see…

  1. My photographs, a reminder of home.
  2. Plenty of notepaper and pens!
  3. My glasses. I normally wear contact lenses, but there would be no point taking those because I’d never get replacements. I need my glasses though, I’m very short-sighted without them!
  4. My daughter has made me lots of little “I love you” signs over the years, and I’ve kept them all, so I’d take these.
  5. Music – I’d make sure I’d got some sort of solar-electric power conversion to keep this going. I need music in my life.

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

I wouldn’t actively seek out others, I’m quite the introvert, so I’d stick with the close group I have to be honest. Having said that, I wouldn’t turn them away if they found us and were friendly.

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

Only 5!!!!!! I’m not sure I could live with only five of them! Oh well, here goes…

  1. Robin Hobb, probably the Rain Wild Chronicles
  2. Nora Roberts, The Cousin’s O’Dwyer series
  3. Neil Gaiman, Stardust is the one currently closest to me so it would have to be that if we’d crashed…
  4. Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials
  5. CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Sorry, I admit they’re almost all series, so I guess I’ve cheated a little. 🙂

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Again, with the 5…. This is really hard 😦

  1. The Muse version of ‘Feeling Good’, I adore it!
  2. Adele, the Album 21
  3. Ed Sheeran, X
  4. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
  5. REM – The Best of

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, although I’m not a heavy drinker of spirits, I don’t think I’d want to think too much about my predicament!

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

Loathe it, completely and utterly!

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! 

My latest book is too raw to work this one through properly, so I’m going to focus on the current release, if that’s ok?

‘Leah’s nightmares are trying to tell her something, and will stop at nothing. When the dreams don’t get through, the message becomes physical in her waking life. What will it take for her to realise the truth?’

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

Once my immediate needs are dealt with (food, water, shelter, heat, I would spend my time reading, listening to music, and writing. This is suddenly starting to sound like bliss!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

  1. Companionship from those closest to me, and our dog!
  2. My family, as I know only some of them would have travelled with me, and I’d miss the others dreadfully (I sound like Lady Mary from Downton Abbey there!). It sounds sentimental, but I’m close to my family, and being apart from them, unable to speak to them every day would be unbearable.
  3. The beautiful scenery of Scotland, I dream my most vivid stories there.
  4. Independence – the ability to walk, or jump in my car, and visit wherever I wanted without being restricted.
  5. The smells of home – Vanilla, my daughter’s hair when she’s just washed and dried it, my favourite meal cooking. All the normal things about life I suppose.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

  1. Politics! It drives me mad, you have each side accusing the other of manipulating the press, but of course everything that their own side puts out has to be the truth. As Billy Connolly once said, the desire to be a politician should automatically disbar you from ever being able to become one!
  2. Along the same lines, war and terrorism. I have my own belief system, and I know others disagree with that. I understand that is their right and have no intention of trying to “convert” them, or hate them for it. I can’t understand the desire to kill someone just because they’re ideas are not the same as your own. Having said that, I do believe that a country has a right to defend itself, and we have a duty to help those that are being victimised.
  3. Pollution – we’re slowly killing our planet, whether through fumes or the destruction of war.
  4. Traffic! I spend the best part of two and a half hours a day travelling, and most days am on the road for 06:45 in order to reach my clients at a reasonable time. I hate that this means I miss my daughter getting up in the morning, but it means I’m home for more hours with her in the evening.
  5. Insects – I’m an entomophobic, and am very scared of anything that crawls or flies. Having said that it stands to reason this new planet will be worse, because at least on Earth I recognise some of them…

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

That’s a really hard one, because of the ripple effect. We’ve just had Rememberance Sunday here, and I’d love to be able to stop so much death and destruction, but as history has proven, there is always going to be someone rising up trying to dominate the rest of the world. Perhaps I’d go back to the creation of man as we are today (however you believe we got her) and remove the gene that makes people hate one another and want to destroy anyone that disagrees with them! But then, perhaps we wouldn’t survive as a race then… Maybe I could wipe out the creation of guns and explosives…

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

Yes, providing you guaranteed me being able to return home!

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

  1. Will Macmillan Jones, The Banned Underground series, great books, and give you a good laugh too.
  2. Tricia Drammeh, Spellbringers series. It’s no secret that I love paranormal, and Tricia is brilliant with this series – I’d recommend it to everyone, and wish there was more to it!
  3. Lisa L Wiedmeier, The Timeless Series. This is a difficult one to explain. Lisa’s books appear to be set in the “real” world like my own, but there are significant differences. I love the concept of the Timeless Clans, and the stories that unfold. I’m a severe sufferer of CATTS (chronic addiction to the timeless series), I admit and can’t wait for each book to be released.
  4. AFE Smith, Darkhaven. I remember reading some of this when I first joined authonomy, and it hooked me even back then, you know how some snippets of books just stay with you. AFE has polished it and it is now published by Harper Voyager.
  5. It would have to be our very own anthology, A World Of Their Own. What a great way to discover the fantastic group of authors that have contributed to this, and for such fantastic causes too!

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

  • Never let someone tell you that you read too much – reading is the best way to understand the people and world around you. Personally I think it makes you more tolerant as well.
  • Writers, never give up. It doesn’t have to be perfection, write your story, that is what is important.

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

12248781_920049701420680_491530867_nAndrea in her own words…

I’ve made up stories for as long as I can remember – if you think about it we all do as children, in the imaginary worlds we create with our toys. As I got older I would “live” in the world from the latest discovery from the library, making up many “what happened next” stories, and even though I stopped playing, I still lived in those worlds until my late teens.

Once I graduated however I forced myself to stop this, thinking I needed to “grow up”, and that is one of my biggest regrets, as I’ve lost so many great ideas as a result.

I read so many books it’s hard to name inspirations – at one stage when I was younger I’d read 12-14 books a week, so to name them all would be impossible. I’m married, with an eleven year old daughter and a cocker spaniel named Ellie. In real life I’m a management consultant, specialising in transforming public services, which sounds quite boring doesn’t it?

Bio:

Andrea Baker was born and raised in the beautiful English county of Warwickshire, where she lived with her parents and older sister. She left home to study at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science, with honours, in 1992. She now works as an independent management consultant, and lives less than five miles from the town and castle of Kenilworth, in Warwickshire, with her husband and their daughter.

Worlds Apart is a series of romantic fantasy books, the first of which, entitled Leah, was originally released on October 11th 2012. Since January 2014 it has been published by Rose Wall Publishing.

Writing History:  

I have made up, and written, stories for as long as I can remember, even before I could effectively write them down. Rose was a nickname that I had within the family as a child, and as a result, anything that I have written, has the pen name Rose Wall. Other than a few poems in student anthologies, none of my writing has been published.

The idea for Worlds Apart has been in my mind for quite a while now, and I often wrote ideas, and dream sequences down into a notebook. In 2010, I started converting these into a story, and completed almost thirty thousand words whilst still working full time, in a high profile programme run on behalf of the Department for Education.

The Programme was closed at the end of November 2010, and after managing the handover of outstanding matters to the Department for Education, I found myself unemployed in January 2011. During the next four months, while trying to find another job, I used my spare time to continue my writing, and this novel, Worlds Apart: Leah, and the outline for its sequel, is the result.

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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Book Blurb

Worlds Apart: Leah

Nightmares are just dreams, aren’t they? They cannot hurt you.

It is simply your mind playing tricks…

Or are they?

Leah’s nightmares are trying to tell her something, something her mind is refusing to let her see.

At nineteen, Leah is still mourning the untimely death of her mother in an accident five years earlier. Her Father decides to move them both to a small Warwickshire town, for a fresh start. But Leah is plagued with terrifying nightmares, that seem to spill into her waking hours, and which somehow bring her comfort as well as fear. Conscious of the warnings in her dreams, and nervous of his growing temper, she deliberately withholds the details of these dreams from her Father.

One morning, Leah sets off up to the Castle, even though her Father would be furious that she had gone there alone. Settling down in her favourite spot, she dozes off in the sunshine, and for the first time experiences a nightmare outside the safety of her home. Disorientated from being awoken mid-dream, she instinctively distrusts the handsome young stranger, Ben, who had awoken her from her dream, yet is strangely attracted to him.

Over the next few weeks the two young people get to know each other better, and Leah finds herself more and more attracted to Ben. Her father finally discovers the relationship when she comes home late one evening. He attacks her, bruising her arm badly.

She fails to hide the injury from Ben the next day, avoiding the subject by questioning him about his music. As a thunder storm erupts they leave the shop at a run, racing together to his car. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a motorcycle skids in the rain, crashing into Leah and sending her flying into a wall.

Her recovery is hampered by her father’s temper and a break-in at the hospital, but this is tempered with the deepening relationship with Ben. Forced to move in with his family, Leah overhears mysterious conversations, her dreams begin to worsen and violent storms rage as she attempts to piece together the jigsaw of facts as they start to emerge.

A climactic event following a regional talent show final sees both Ben and Leah being severely injured, but they are saved by mysterious creatures. Passing out as a result of her injuries, and her discovery, Leah is transported back to the house, but when she awakes, Ben is missing. Forced into a journey of discovery, she finds hidden, surreal worlds within traditional English settings along with a truth about herself and her past that she can barely allow herself to believe, let alone understand.

***

Thank you, Andrea. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing exploratory science vessel has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Kay Kauffman!

This is the thirteenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble 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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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, 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. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also very proud to call close friends.

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who I am VERY proud to call my friends, met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our thirteenth author interview, and our first AWB interview, the princess of fantasy…

Kay Kauffman

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Kay, 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’ve seen enough episodes of Naked and Afraid for this to be an easy question! I’d take an extra large pot with a lid, a fire starter (because Fire Whisperer Cody Lundin I am not), a machete, a mosquito net (so many uses!), and 500 feet of heavy-duty climbing rope.

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

I’d have my survival items in a backpack, all ready to go. I’d also grab a laptop full of music and family photos for those quiet, lonely moments; all the paper and pencils I can lay my hands on; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (travel tips for the win! J; and one towel large and thick enough to double as a blanket.

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

Chicken that I am, I think I’d play it safe and observe said life forms first. Then, if they seemed friendly, I’d approach them. If not, well, I’d head for the hills at warp ten!

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

Pathways by Jeri Taylor, because I love Star Trek: Voyager and this book got me through some rough times in my teen years; an omnibus set of The Banned Underground books by Will Macmillan Jones, because I’m sure to need a good laugh at some point; an omnibus set of Caroline B. Cooney’s The Time Travelers books, because – in a word – they’re awesome (despite the fourth book being rather less awesome than it could have been); The Princess Bride by William Goldman because it’s just so darn quotable, not to mention a classic; and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (yep, you guessed it, an omnibus set) because I’ve been meaning to reread them and I may actually have the time if I’m stranded on a remote alien planet.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

“A Way Back Into Love” by Haley Bennett and Hugh Grant and “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles because they’re both uplifting, feel-good songs; the complete works of Gaelic Storm because…well, do I really need a reason? 🙂 “The Longer the Waiting (The Sweeter the Kiss)” by Josh Turner because his voice makes me melt and this song is just…I have no words to describe the epicness of this song! The same goes for “How Did I Fall in Love with You” by the Backstreet Boys. And I’d also have to take their album Unbreakable because…Well, just because. 🙂

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?

I’d take the Coke – after all, I’ll need the caffeine to keep me going. And if I need to clean a battery terminal or something, I’ll be all set.

On the other hand, crash-landing on an alien planet is bound to be stressful, and vodka might help me relax. But I get sleepy when I drink.

Of course, if I had both Coke AND vodka, I’d have the best of both worlds… 🙂

Random comet question: If you had the choice, would you live in Westeros, Middle Earth or Narnia?

If I had to choose among those three, I would probably have to choose Middle Earth. Westeros sounds much too rough for my liking, and Narnia, while beautiful, also has the White Queen, whom I really don’t care to tangle with.

I’d settle in the Shire, I think. Lovely scenery, lovely people, lovely food – what more could a girl want? 🙂

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! 

In Tuesday Daydreams and A Song for All Seasons, I use words to paint pictures of frost-covered windowpanes, snowy prairie vistas, rolling green fields, and bright blue skies. But if poetry’s not your scene, then check out my short stories in A World of Their Own and see what happens when a cancer vaccine goes terribly, horribly wrong.

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

I’d spend my time writing. After all, without my day job and all the usual interruptions, I might actually get a fair amount done!

Unless, of course, I’m plagued by unusual interruptions. In that case, I’d probably be too busy cowering in a dark cave somewhere to do much writing.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

I’d miss all the usual things – my family, my friends, electricity, indoor plumbing, and the view from my hammock. Or rather, the view from my hammock seven years ago. But then, I already miss that.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

I would most definitely NOT miss politics (Can the 2016 election be over already? Please? Pretty please? No? Boo.). I wouldn’t miss petty drama or the people who thrive on it. I wouldn’t miss being in debt (lookin’ at you, student loans). I wouldn’t miss money or the things it does to people at all. And, last but not least, I wouldn’t miss those TV commercials for prescription drugs. They make taking the medications sound ten times worse than the diseases they’re supposed to cure. Jeff Foxworthy has a whole bit about them, and it’s funny cuz it’s true.

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

Every embarrassing moment in my life.

Seriously, though, if I could change my college experience without it affecting the life I have now, I would. I would have stayed on campus instead of going home every weekend, I would have studied abroad, and I would have finished my bachelor’s degree. At least.

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

I think so. Shows like Star Trek (all incarnations) and Futurama left me with an incurable desire to know what else is out there.

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

Well, since I already mentioned Will Macmillan Jones, I suppose that means I need to talk about other authors, don’t I? All right, then – how about Emily McKeon/C.W. Farley? Who Will Dance With Me? and What the Town Knew are both amazing; she really can write it all. Inquisitor by R.J. Blain isn’t the sort of thing I normally read, but this book grabbed me at the start and never once let go. Harriet Goodchild’s After the Ruin was a tapestry of a book – richly layered, full of details, I could reread this book a hundred times and find something new to enjoy every time, I just know it. Chasing Azrael by Hazel Butler was another such book, and I can’t wait for the next instalment in her Deathly Insanity series. And finally, Lindsey J. Parsons’ novel Vortex, the first book in her Return of the Effra series, was utterly wonderful. Again, not the sort of thing I normally read, but it was just a load of fun from beginning to end, and I wish she were still here to write more fantastic stories. (I totally agree, Vortex is one of my all time favourite reads and I SO wish dear Lindsey was still with us!)

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

Never underestimate the power of a friendly smile. 🙂

That said, one should also keep in mind Ferengi Rule of Acquisition No. 48: The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife.

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

wpaviKay in her own words…

“I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world…”

Wait, that’s not me! I’m a legal secretary by day and a determined word wrangler by night. I sometimes play referee for my four kids, who keep me on my toes and a little bit out of my mind. I love a good romance and I adore bad jokes. I live in the middle of an Iowa cornfield (okay, so this year it’s a bean field, but that’s beside the point) with my handsome, handy husband, our kids, and an assortment of furry creatures both tame and wild. The geek is strong in our family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

Bio:

A mild-mannered secretary by day and a determined word-wrangler by night, Kay battles the twin evils of distraction and procrastination in order to write fantastical tales of wuv…twue wuv…with a few bad haiku thrown in for good measure.

She is currently hard at work on the first book in a fantasy trilogy. Kay resides in the midst of an Iowa corn field with her devoted husband and his mighty red pen; four crazy, cute kids; and an assortment of adorably small, furry animals.

Care to save her from the chaos? You can find Kay in the all the usual places:

At her blog, where she shares random pictures and silly poems; on Facebook, where she shares things about cats and books; on Twitter, where she shares whatever pops into her head; on Pinterest, where she shares delicious recipes and images from her fantasy world; on Instagram, where she shares pictures of pretty sunsets; and on Tumblr, where she shares all of the above.

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Natural poetry at its finest.

In addition to intimate portraits of family life, A Song for All Seasons paints vivid pictures of the Iowa landscape in all its glory. From frost-covered windowpanes and snowy vistas to rolling green fields and bright blue skies, each poem is a peek into a fading world of untamed beauty.

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Amazon

Amazon UK

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Tuesday Daydreams: A Journal in Verse by Kay Kauffman

Natural poetry at its finest.

Capturing the life and imagination of the author in vivid detail, these poems touch on joy and loss, life’s everyday hassles, and the many faces of Mother Nature.

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Amazon (paperback)

Amazon (Kindle)

Amazon UK (paperback)

Amazon UK (Kindle)

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Thank you, Kay. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing pleasure cruiser has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Sophie’s Adventures in Wonderland – BristolCon 2014

SAM_5104Okay, so before the week comes to a close, I want to share with you all my experiences of being a newbie at my very first convention, BristolCon!

Last weekend I ventured to Bristol, UK, town of my birth, to go to my first convention, BristolCon. It was held at the rather posh Doubletree Hotel (part of the Hilton chain) and has been running for the past six years. Its creator and chairman, fabulous fantasy writer and awesome fellow Grimboldian author, is Joanne Hall.

Joanne Hall & Paul Cornell

Being nervous as hell, the kind of nervous that seems to grow an orange in your throat so you can’t swallow, lose your voice and feel like you might pass out, I pressed on. Not only was it my first sci-fi/fantasy convention, but I would be meeting my lovely publisher too for the very first time, the extraordinary Sammy HK Smith of Grimbold Books & its imprint, Kristell Ink. I was a sweaty mess the moment I turned up, an embarrassing habit I have when very anxious and something I hoped nobody would notice though I was sure everyone would.

The daft thing was, while frantically moping my brow, I needn’t have been so worried. Within minutes my nervousness evaporated and seemed completely out of place in such a friendly environment. Everyone was SO kind, SO welcoming and utterly awesome! In fact within moments my phrase of the day was, “ten buckets of awesome!”

I arrived late, just after 11am, cursing myself for the notorious congested Bristol traffic and just missed Joanne Hall’s reading, something I had desperately wanted to see. With guest badge and lovely goodie bag in hand, which included an awesome free book by one of my favourite authors, Michael Moorcock, and a free Grimbold Books bangle, I headed to my first event – a fascinating discussion on the weather of Middle Earth! SAM_5118 For a nerd like me, it was manna from heaven. It was chaired by Bristol University’s Professor  Dan Lunt, who really brought Tolkien’s magical creation and the science of meteorology together. His climate change computer models were incredible and showed how JRR Tolkien really did have an understanding of geography, geology, meteorology and working eco-systems. Unsurprisingly, Dan Lunt found that the places on Earth most like The Shire, were areas in this country, particularly Lincolnshire and Leicestershire and an area in the south of New Zealand’s South Island. Having spent four months in New Zealand myself, backpacking in 1997/1998 (the inspiration behind my own Darkling Chronicles), I witnessed first hand what an amazing and inspiring place NZ is. The majesty and unspoilt grandeur of its landscape is so perfectly fitted to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It still blows me away that when I watch the LOTR films, it’s like watching a personal travel movie for me, I see places Peter Jackson used that I actually stood in and that inspired me too, long before the films came into existence!

Anyway, it was a brilliant talk. I particularly loved the fact, that in climate terms and ecology, the place on Earth most like Mordor is…Los Angeles! Oh and in the darkened room, I managed to get away with shouting “Yes!” when I came across the awesome Grimbold Books advert in BristolCon’s lovely programme booklet! SAM_5102

Jim BurnsAfter the talk, I decided to try and find my very good friend and fantasy comic genius, Will MacMillan Jones, but me being me, I got rather side-tracked and ventured into the Art Room. WOW!!!!! Not only were there some seriously awesome artists and pieces of work in there, including canvases and prints by the very talented Evelinn Enoksen, and some very cool armoury, I came across a true genius of the fantasy/sci-fi world, legendary illustrator, Jim Burns! I have been a fan of Jim Burn’s work for many years and here he was in the flesh, surrounded by his astounding work! I was dumbstruck. Eventually I sidled up to him and introduced myself. We chatted for about half an hour. He talked about meeting Ridley Scott just after Alien back in 1979/1980 and how Ridley Scott was in the works to direct Frank Herbert’s epic Dune, a movie later directed by David Lynch. He talked about meeting John Hurt, an alcoholic mess at the time but lovely guy and how after the Dune project fell through, Ridley Scott’s people approached him to see if he would be interested in working on another project, my all-time favourite movie based on one of my all-time favourite books. Yes, I’m talking about Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, made into seminal epic, Blade Runner!!!!!! I was speechless…well, for about ten seconds. BLADE RUNNER!!!!! WOW!!!!!! Jim showed me the artwork used for Deckard’s flying car that he drew. AWESOME!!!! What an amazing artist and what a genuinely lovely chap. Even when our conversation was rudely interrupted by a bloke who clearly had all the social manners of a camel, Jim was the epitome of graciousness, allowing this bloke to talk brashly at him and interrupt everything he said. It didn’t matter, Jim Burns was and is a star! I immediately bought his beautiful book and had him sign it. Wow! It already has pride of place amongst my art books!

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After that, I sort of wandered around in a slight daze until I bumped into a lovely chap called Alistair Sims, who I recognised from chatting to on FB as being the owner of a gorgeous new bookshop in Clevedon, Books On A HillSAM_5025 We got chatting and went into the dealer’s room for me to find and introduce him to my friend, Will MacMillan Jones, who was one of the dealer’s at BristolCon, selling his very funny books, The Banned Underground, which had Jasper Fforde no less complimenting him on! And there in front of Will, in his cool ‘Man from Del Monte’ hat, was my lovely publisher and fellow fantasy writer, the irrepressibly cool, Sammy HK Smith and fellow Grimbold author, the wonderful Irish firestorm (and my personal Sat-Nav), Robyn Jane Fulton aka Ellen Croshain! What lovely lovely people!! Despite my sometimes loud and apparent bubbly exterior (having been a teacher for 16yrs you automatically learn to hide yourself behind facades of smiles and confidence, you couldn’t do the job otherwise), but in reality, I am actually very VERY shy and not confident at all. So for me, meeting new people is always a big thing and something I’m not terribly good at. But immediately I felt so comfortable around them and instantly really liked them both. Phew! Lol, I cannot tell you how different Sammy is from my last publishers, not just in how professional she is (she knows everyone and everything!) but in how friendly, honest, open, fun and just awesome she is. We all hugged. I’d known Sammy, a fellow AWB member (Alliance of Worldbuilders) since the Alliance started back on HarperCollins Authonomy in 2010, but it was so great to finally meet my gorgeous friend in person! 😀 Ellen, Sophie, Sammy

SAM_5018After chatting ten to the dozen, I followed my new friends through BristolCon’s plethora of wondrous tables, rooms and events. We ended up going to another panel, called ‘Influences on Authors’, (with Paul Cornell, Joanne Hall, Piotr Swietleik, John Baverstock and Jessica Rydill) which was a brilliant, spirited and humorous discussion which came up with some very unexpected topics, including Dan Brown and JK Rowling (both of whom I’m not fans of) and how different influences affect each author’s writing and their own personal ‘voice’. Listening to Joanne Hall on the panel, was a treat, and after the event I finally got to meet her!!! An amazing author and all round fantasy/sci-fi queen, I was utterly in awe of how she organises and runs this brilliant con, lol, I can hardly organise my bedroom! It’s funny what a small world it is though, I’d actually known Jo and been friendly with her for years on Authonomy, knowing her under the name of Hierath to my Tollam. It was only last year when I finally realised that Hierath and Joanne Hall were one and the same person! In amongst the audience, I also noticed another familiar face wearing a T-shirt with a quote you can’t easily forget, “Like the Wizard of Oz, only with whores and gore!” from Prince of Fools. I asked Sammy to confirm it, yes, it was Mark Lawrence! (the one in the white T-shirt in the background behind Alistair) SAM_5021

We headed back to the bar, where Sammy introduced a very shy me to an equally shy Mark Lawrence, he of the staggeringly successful Broken Empire series that has been giving GRR Martin a run for his money! I was rather in awe of Mark I don’t mind admitting and made some daft reference to him wearing a cooler T-shirt than mine (which he was). We left him and sat down giggling like naughty school children and made poor Alistair blush with our moomin (boob-age) antics! Lol, already I’d noticed how wearing my White Mountain dragon sketch emblazoned across my boobs, drew a LOT of attention! The sentinels

After some more giggles and serious writing chat, we ventured back into the con and went to see ‘The Fragmentation of Fandom’ discussion panel with, amongst others, Jasper Fforde! Ummmmm…definitely my ‘dish of the day’! I’m aware that I should have been listening to him but was just staring. Oh dear! We then grabbed a load of fabulous free books from the table outside and also met the lovely Karoliina Leikomaa who had been on the panel for Fragmentation of Fandom too and fantasy writer and reviewer, Sarah Jane Higbee, who had also been a teacher!

We retreated back to the bar and after drinks and shared chips, yum yum, we met the deliriously witty Anne-Mhairi Simpson who introduced us to her awesome card game, ‘Be the Bard’! What hysterics!!!! 😀

I cannot tell you what fun I had and just how daft I was to be so nervous.

BristolCon is TEN BUCKETS OF AWESOME and so are all the people I meet, especially my new and old friends. I shall definitely be making BristolCon a date in my diary EVERY year from now on. An absolute must for all fantasy/sci-fi fans, writers, readers and lovers of great literature and dark thrilling tales!

Highlights? All of it!

See you guys next year! 😀 xxx

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