Friday, 28 August 2015

The Mole Machine

 This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.


It's been a few weeks since I last posted. I had hoped that Impcatcher would be due for release shortly, but unfortunately I've had some issues with my intended publishers, and unless things change in the next few weeks I suspect I shall be parting company from them and self-publishing the book instead.

 Until I can confirm what's happening with Impcatcher, I'm going to put up something different. This is a sequence from a novel I worked on for a time, but never managed to get it to work. The structure is steampunk meets lost world, and might well have ended up as a continuation of the story I presented a couple of months ago.

Our heroes are in a lost city. With them is an unpleasant villain, Stalhmor, who until now has been unable to make trouble...



The city was screaming, an impossible shriek like old metal being ripped asunder. The Geharnei were angry ants, thronging the marbled streets in confusion, heads turning as they sought the source of the cacophony. 

Talenne stared at Stahlmor. He was leaning on the balcony, looking out over the city, his evident laugh drowned by the sound throbbing through the crystal towers. Allory was on his feet, pointing towards the arena, his own protests and anger overlaid by the growing roar. Something was churning the ground, the worked stones of the amphitheatre's seating moving like waves in thick oil. Stahlmor was nodding, expectantly, as the tortured stones finally broke apart and a blackened iron and brass screwhead, spinning manically, surged into the bowl of the arena. It thrust further forward, drawing after it a gigantic, heavy torso, two sets of studded tracks glittering in the brilliant sunlight as they churned on each side. The round, heavy, iron-scaled body had to be twelve feet across, segmented like a tapeworm, and already more than twenty feet had hauled itself out of the ground. Steam was venting from brass pipes behind the drillhead. 

The sound had dropped to almost bearable dimensions as the spinning drill no longer savaged the rock beneath Geharne. Talenne could finally hear Stahlmor's harsh laughter. She had preferred the deafening crescendo of the mole machine's arrival.

"You see, Allory?" Stahlmor rasped. "I am no longer powerless."

As always, comments welcomed!


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Starwatch Review



Book review:  Starwatch, by Ian Blackport.

Don't take any notice of the title. Starwatch has nothing to do with astronomy – this is a fantasy caper novel. The heroine, Cyriana, is a thief who collects a disparate team of criminals to carry out an audacious heist. The target is Starwatch, a rich and powerful university. The novel charts the preparations, planning and execution of the job, and we get to know the team and some of their stories as the plot progresses. There are a number of twists as the team prepare for the job. If you've see films like The Italian Job then you'll have some idea of the structure. Starwatch is a very good example of taking a genre – in this case the crime novel – and crafting a fantasy version.

Starwatch is not set in an overtly fantasy world - no elves, dwarves or significant magic – but there are enough differences to make it clearly not our Earth (not least the two moons in the sky). The cultures Cyriana sneaks through are well drawn and interesting, the renaissance-style feel to the world is nicely portrayed and is refreshingly unsexist. The book also has enough sly humour to make it a good read.

The plot itself is entertaining, and the characters are complex and individual – Cyriana herself is a great character (I'm always delighted to encounter a strong, capable female lead - Cyriana and Sorrel would get on well), but her comrades in crime are also intriguing (in all senses!). They are none of them flawless, but most are likeable - they are rogues, not monsters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have no hesitation in giving it five stars.

It's available here

Friday, 24 July 2015

SFFS 25/7/2015 Impcatcher - Tal and Gustav


This is my snippet this week for SFFS. SFFS is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.

 This is another snippet from Impcatcher. Tal Djandiss, the Impcatcher of the title, is in the marketplace, confronting an orc named Gustav.



Gustav has mottled dark red-grey skin, ivory tusks, muscles, and a propensity for violence. He's almost human in shape, which is one of the reasons I find orcs particularly unsettling – they're too much like us. They also have a taste for members of the opposite sex, not necessarily of their own kind. I was not letting him get anywhere near Ursa.
What's it to you, Gus?”
He bared his tusks in what I suspect he fondly believed was a smile. “Rorsdack wants the Veil back.”
He'd look pretty stupid wearing it.”
Gustav didn't even crack a smile. Orcs do have a sense of humour, but the things they find amusing include eviscerations and boiling oil. Real jokes don't amuse them. Nor did my comment, for that matter.

  As always, comments welcomed!

Friday, 17 July 2015

SFFS 18/7/2015 Impcatcher - meet Gustav

This is my snippet this week for SFFS. SFFS is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.

 This is another snippet from Impcatcher. Tal Djandiss, the Impcatcher of the title, is in the marketplace, talking to his favourite sorceress...
 
 

All my attention was on the sorceress before me – I had no warning before a heavy hand slammed into me from behind.
Where's the Veil, Djandiss?” The voice was angry, harsh and alarmingly familiar. People around us were drawing back, the crowd waiting expectantly in the hopes of violence. I had a nasty suspicion they wouldn't be disappointed.
I'm not small, but I have to look up to Gustav. He stands well over six feet tall, and it's all solid muscle. I'd like to say particularly between the ears, but unfortunately that's not true. Gustav's no philosopher, but he's not an idiot, either. I wouldn't say it in his hearing, but he's good at what he does. Professional. I could have a degree of respect for him, if it wasn't for the nature of the jobs he did, and the people he tended to work for. He never carries a sword; the iron bar he has slung at his belt is more than adequate for his activities.
I drew myself to my full six feet, and stared into his orange eyes. Orcs are violent and aggressive brutes, and Gustav is an exemplary specimen of the race. 

 As always, comments welcomed!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Guest post: Aurora Springer

Today I'm delighted to welcome Aurora Springer to my blog.

The sharp-featured gentleman to the left is the Grand Master Athanor, one of the twelve powerful psionicists who between them control much of the galaxy. Grand Master's Game is the second book in Aurora's trilogy, and is released today.

I enjoyed Grand Master's Pawn, the first book in the series, and I am equally enjoying Grand Master's Game. The heroine is not a shrinking Violet, despite bearing that name, and has psionic powers of her own. The universe itself is complex and has a range of races, all bound together by a system of transmats - but the system is breaking down, for no clear reason. By the end of Pawn there is a possble suspect amongst the Grand Masters. In Game, Violet becomes involved in an investigation into what is going on, as well as facing immediate dangers from monsters and humans alike. Is she still being used as a pawn, or is she becoming a significant figure in the game?

Aurora has kindly allowed me to include an extract from the book.


They reached the massive iron gates in front of the ominous black marble fa├žade of Council Hall. One of the double iron gates swung open, activated by Athanor’s aura. Exerting his superiority, the Grand Master stepped inside first. Violet followed him meekly and blinked in surprise. An alien guarded the inner hall instead of the usual armed man in a black uniform. She had not seen this type of alien before. It resembled a yellow slug with tentacles sprouting from both ends of a bulbous body.
The upper ring of tentacles waved and a mechanical voice spoke with artificial politeness, “Do you have an appointment, Sir?”
Athanor straightened and resumed his natural face. His eyes flashed electric blue at his interrogator, “I am the Grand Master Griffin. I bring a missive for perusal by the Council.” He held up the rolled paper with its blue seal. The alien coiled a tentacle round the scroll and dropped it in an ebony box.
The alien guard sneezed and the translator blurted, “Your message will be delivered to the Council at their next meeting.”
Athanor frowned, “By Odin’s eye, the delay is intolerable! This matter is urgent and the next meeting is not scheduled for three weeks.”
“You may ask the Secretary to expedite the delivery. I will check when she is available.”
“Very well! Come with me, Violet.” The letter flew into Athanor’s hand and he strode past the alien towards the inner doorway. Its upper tentacles writhed in outrage at the Grand Master’s unorthodox behavior. The alien wriggled towards the inner door, clearly intending to block their passage. Athanor directed a pinch of psi pressure, and the creature recoiled from their path.
The Grand Master paced down the corridor, his eyes sizzling blue spotlights. Violet trotted to keep abreast of him. His sub vocal grumble, “Stupid formalities intended to prevent action!” made her suppress a chuckle.
They halted in front of a door with the label of Secretary Berthal. Smaller letters under the name proclaimed, ‘No entry without an appointment’. Athanor knocked sharply and pushed the door open without waiting for a reply.
The Secretary was a Jangalorian, a small fur covered animal like a cross between a rabbit and a monkey. She leaped on top of the desk and crouched on all six legs. Her white puff of a tail quivered, and she shrilled, “You cannot enter without an appointment!”
Athanor scowled at her. After one glance at his fierce hawk face and glaring laser eyes, the Secretary curled into a trembling ball.
Violet decided to mediate. She projected reassurance to the cowering Secretary. Then, she attempted to mollify her irate Grand Master. “The Secretary’s only doing her job. She’ll cooperate faster if you speak in a friendlier manner.
He crossed his arms over his chest and muttered, “You speak to her, my conciliatory pawn.”
Squaring her chin firmly, Violet said, “My Grand Master brings an urgent message for the Council. The Griffin warns of a gross violation of the Council rules.”
The furry Secretary unrolled and jumped onto her six legs. Her tail twitched in fear and she stuttered, “Urgent message from Grand Master Griffin. Give scroll for Berthal to submit to Lord of Lightning, Council Chair.”
Violet carried the scroll to the desk and placed it between the slender fingers of the Secretary.
“The Chair will order an emergency Council meeting to discuss my letter,” Athanor said in his haughtiest tone. He spun on his heels and strode out the door, tugging Violet in his wake. “We’ll see if they appreciate the warning,” he sent her.
As they stepped into the hallway, he murmured belatedly, “Thank you, Secretary Berthal.”
“Why don’t you do the blasting and I’ll do the sweet talking,” she suggested, twinkling merrily at him. He had reverted to his disguise, but his mouth quirked at her words and he ruffled her hair.

The book is available on Amazon.com
and on Amazon.co.uk

I'll add that Aurora's background is scientific - she has a PhD in molecular biophysics and her day job involves discovering scientific facts (all very mysterious!). She also admits that she has been inventing adventures in strange worlds for as long as she can remember - a habit I recognise, being much the same! Her books are character-driven romances set in weird worlds, with a sprinkling of humour. She was born in the UK but now lives in the USA, in Atlanta with her husband, a dog, and two cats that apparently occupy her keyboard (as most cats do!).

If you want to learn more about her or her other books she can be found on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter or on her own blog:






Friday, 10 July 2015

SFFS 11/7/15 Impcatcher

This is my snippet this week for SFFS. SFFS is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.


This is another snippet from Impcatcher. Tal Djandiss, the Impcatcher of the title, has captured a creature and carried it to the market to show to someone.



My favourite sorceress was slumped in her stall in the market, boredom writ in considerable detail across her face. I swung my wriggling horror into her sight. I wasn't sure quite what I'd bagged - it was akin to a centipede, with a dozen legs on each side of its snakelike indigo body.
She looked at my pet. Pest. Sorry, slip of the tongue.
“Most men would offer a girl flowers” she said archly.
“I thought this was prettier.” I let her get a good look at it. “Thought you'd find it interesting.”
She pulled a face at me, but with a hint of a smile lurking in the background. “I have no idea why you're convinced I like unusual, hideous monsters.”
There was an obvious reply. “You like me, don't you?”
She didn't even try to credit my words with a response.


Who says romance is dead? As always, comments welcomed! 

Come back on Tuesday when I have a guest blogger, Aurora Springer, and a snippet from her new novel, Grand Master's Game!
 

Friday, 3 July 2015

SFFS 4/7/2015 Impcatcher

To my American friends, happy Independence Day - but there are more important matters afoot! There are imps on the loose!

This is my snippet this week for SFFS. SFFS is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.


This is the second snippet from Impcatcher, carrying on from last week's opening. Tal Djandiss, the Impcatcher of the title, is in a pitch dark cellar trying to capture - well, take a guess...


There was a swishing sound in the still air as another choice vintage spun towards where my head currently was. I ducked, tripping against one of the wooden wine frames and jamming the neck of a bottle into my ear painfully. I swore, the epithet drowned by the latest bottle smashing on the arching stonework behind me. The smell hinted that this had been a sherry or a port. Another titter of laughter gave me some idea where my tormentor was lurking. If I lunged for it through the darkness, odds were either I'd slam into one of the rough stone pillars holding up the low ceiling or I’d bring another rack of bottles crashing to the rough tiled floor. My employer would not be amused if I wiped out half the vintages stored down here. Of course, if she’d warned me what this monstrosity was like, I would have been better prepared. My net was draped over a crate of wine somewhere in the gloom. I suspected my catching a Vildani red from 2744AA wouldn’t qualify me for my fee. Come to think of it, if this little bastard’s aim improved, my only reward would be an early arrival in the hereafter.
I love my job. Honest.

As always, comments welcomed!