|Posted by Liz Strange on April 9, 2013 at 8:30 PM||comments (0)|
I am very excited to be hosting a guest blog from the talented and multi-award nominated Matt Hughes:
In an email exchange with Liz the other day, she let drop the news that she was a reader of historical fiction.
Me, too, I said.
Why don’t you come over and blog about it? she said.
So here we go.
In my working-poor childhood, we didn’t have many books around, and a lot of my time was spent in rented farm houses in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, out where the bookmobile did not run. So although I could read from the age of four, it was pretty well all comic books until I was old enough to go high school in town, where they had a decent school library.
I would read books that my elder siblings brought home from school: science fiction, in my brother’s case; and in my sister’s a historical novel called Cue For Treason, by Geoffrey Trease, which was part of the Grade Nine English curriculum in 1950s Ontario. It was about a couple of English teenagers who become apprenticed to Shakespeare and foil a plot to assassinate Elizabeth I.
I gobbled it up, and then when I finally got to high school, I started to read similar books—of which, I was delighted to find, there were quite a few. I vacuumed up juvenile historical and science fiction novels by Trease (also Henry Treece and Alfred Duggan) until I’d read out the school’s library and then the young folks’ section of the public library in Burnaby, BC, to where we’d fled after my father was unable to pay what he owed to some loan sharks.
By the time I was fifteen, I was working my way through the adult stacks and finding plenty more grist to mill. At sixteen, I started to write one of my own, based on a snippet of historical fact I’d come across: after conquering the known world and establishing his imperial capital at Babylon, Alexander the Great ordered one of his Greeks to captain a Phoenician ship and sail it west beyond the Pillars of Hercules, then south and keep on going until he circumnavigated Africa and arrived at the top of the Red Sea. The ship apparently went, but whether it ever came back again is unknown. Shortly after he ordered the expedition, Alexander died of malaria, and his empire was divided up by his feuding generals.
I only wrote one chapter. My home life was too chaotic to allow for a precocious literary career. The work did come in handy, though. In Grade Twelve at Burnaby South high school, I arrived back in English class after one of my frequent absences to find that we’d been assigned to write the first chapter of a novel. I had my Alexandrian adventure in my notebook, so I turned it in.
The teacher, the brilliant Ruth Eldredge, formerly a colonel in the US Army, gave me a ten out of ten. That was significant because she’d told us at the beginning of the year that the highest mark she would give out would be a nine. Nothing we wrote, she said, would be good enough to merit a ten.
I can pretty well date the time when I decided I would be a writer to that afternoon.
I kept on reading historical fiction throughout my teens and twenties. By the time I hit my thirties, the genre was being submerged under the spreading morass of historical romance—bodice-rippers, they were called. Fewer and fewer authors were writing real historicals; they’d largely gone the way of the western.
There were still some good authors writing great books. Chief among them I would place Cecelia Holland, who is still writing today, although she has had to slide slightly sideways into historicals with a touch of fantasy. Still, I will argue that she is the finest author of historical fiction writing in English today. If you haven’t read her, and you like histfic, you have a treat in store—in fact, treat after treat, since she has been turning out exceptional historical novels since the mid-1960s.
And now that we have the long tail to choose from, I can recommend a few other great practitioners of the art without consigning you to haunt the dusty back reaches of second-hand book stores. Here are some names with which to conjure the past:
Robert Graves, an English poet who wrote historicals for the money, and didn’t think very highly of them. But his I, Claudius and Claudius the God are brilliant, and he produced several more, all of them far better than he thought they were.
Zoe Oldenbourg, a Frenchwoman who made herself a self-taught expert on the Crusades, and whose Cities of the Flesh is the best account I’ve ever read of the brutal stamping-out of the Cathar heresy.
Henry Treece, best known for his juvenile historicals, but whose brilliant retellings of Greek myths—Jason, Electra, King Oedipus—are definitely for adults.
Lionel Sprague de Camp, well known as a fantasy author, but who romped through some wonderful historical adventures such as An Elephant for Aristotle and The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate. It was de Camp who inspired me to write the voyage around Africa.
Mika Waltari, a Finn, whose best known work is The Egyptian, about the strange religious revolution staged by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, but who also wrote several others, including The Etruscan.
Gore Vidal, of whose work I most enjoyed Creation, the tale of a fifth-century BC Persian envoy whose wanderings bring him into contact with Zarathustra, the Buddha, Socrates, Lao Tsu, and Confucius.
Dorothy Dunnett, especially her seven-volume saga of Niccolo, a Flemish/Scottish bastard who rises to become a merchant prince of fifteenth-century Europe.
In more recent times, Bernard Cornwell and, of course, Patrick O’Brian, whom everybody knows these days. Cornwell’s are well told adventure tales, and more power to him; O’Brian’s works are so good, they’re simply astonishing.
I sometimes think I should go back and revisit that trip around Africa. But it takes a lot of research, and I find it’s so much easier being a science fantasy writer: I can just make stuff up.
You can find out more about Matt and his work here: Website
|Posted by Liz Strange on March 16, 2013 at 5:20 PM||comments (0)|
I’ve always been fascinated by both science and politics. My first degree is in Chemistry and my second in Political Science. I work as a policy advisor – currently at the Senate of Canada – and read physics for fun. Add to those obsessions, nearly half a century of reading science fiction and nearly half that writing all sorts of fiction, it was inevitable that when I became a publisher, I’d have to bring them all together in one place.
“Strange Bedfellows,” an anthology of political science fiction where ideology is a character, has on my mind when I met with my publisher, Virginia O’Dine of Bundoran Press, last November. I went to breakfast to pitch an anthology and wound up buying a publishing company. Strange Bedfellows was immediately added to my publishing plans.
If this anthology was going to be a signature piece, I wanted it to be the best anthology I could make it. Paying professional rates (5 cents/ word instead of 1.5 cents) was one way to accomplish that. Higher rates means both more submissions and it means writers who no longer submit to non-pro markets might submit to mine. I’ll also be accepting submissions from anywhere in the world (as long as they’re in English) even if it means Strange Bedfellows doesn’t count as Canadian content for arts council grant purposes.
The difference between paying pro and non-pro rates on 80,000 words is significant -- $2800, on top of the thousands I’d already be spending on publication. The only way I could afford it was by fund raising. Hence the Indiegogo project.
We are now in the last few days of the campaign and, at the time of writing, achingly close. If you can help please throw in a few bucks. Even if we’ve already made the goal by the time you get there, remember, all additional funds go to buying more stories or raising the rate of pay to writers.
|Posted by Liz Strange on March 10, 2013 at 10:50 AM||comments (1)|
Damsel in Distress: Tamiko Hoshinara and the Pit
As a game developer and a story teller, I have to walk every day through the minefield of tropes and clichés that make up the medium and the genres in which I work. I write horror, science fiction and fantasy, and my most popular universe is a space opera setting. If tropes really were mines, I’d be riding a pogo stick through No-Man’s Land in the middle of World War I.
My general strategy as a writer is to deal with all Tropes fearlessly. The past is a playground. My team loves genre fiction and games, but we can only offer respect, never reverence. Sometimes tropes are made to be subverted, or inverted, or outright kicked in the nads. I’ve twisted a great many of them over the years.
Cold emotionless reptile race? Nope! Passionate and expressive reptile race who love chocolate, poetry and jokes. Insect race with spooky hive mind? Nope! Dedicated and thoughtful individuals who value nothing above family ties.
Needless to say I’ve had a lot of fun with the background fiction and the meta-story of the universe as a whole. But due to the restrictions of game mechanics, there were some tropes I never really had the chance to work with. Take, for example, the Damsel in Distress.
Last year, my team and I started working on our first truly nostalgic game. Sword of the Stars: The Pit is an old school adventure. The art style is an homage to the classic 8-bit adventures that we all played as kids. The mechanics of the game are a spin-off from games like Rogue and hearken back to ancient computer dungeon-hacks of yesteryear.
As a player, you identify with a colorful little sprite who dives into a dungeon and spends the game battling monsters, collecting loot, crafting new items, and dying, dying, dying, in a variety of horrible and hilarious ways. Your objective in games like this is to work your way toward the bottom of the Pit toward the always-distant, nearly-impossible-to-reach goal…in this case, you’re searching for a nigh-mystical Cure for a terrible plague which rages on the planet’s surface (a plague which was unleashed by the evil bio-scientists in this very same Pit).
The direct story content of this game is very light. There are three playable characters, two male and one female, and each of them had to have a compelling reason to dive into this nightmare and continue to fight to reach the bottom of this horrible labyrinth. They would be fighting for the Cure, of course—the chance to heal humankind and save the world. But when you reached the end of the game, achieved victory and discovered the Cure, what form should it take?
This was an issue that was debated by the team for quite a while. There were all sorts of possibilities. We all agreed that the Cure would be in a medical stasis pod, frozen in a timeless state. But it seemed a little lame to open the pod and just have a test tube or a beaker pop out—even if it might glow a bit.
I was the one who insisted that we should go old school all the way. We should invoke one of the classic tropes of our industry, a symbol which was present in so many of the games that we were paying homage to, in The Pit: the Cure should be a Damsel in Distress.
And so I created Tamiko Hoshinara.
In many respects, Tamiko is a classic DiD. She has a personal relationship to two out of the three playable characters in the game: the Marine (Travis Hudson) was her fiancée, and the Scout (Toshiko Hoshinara) is her twin sister. The third playable character, the Engineer, has no personal relationship with her at all prior to entering the facility, but he is actually the one who is most likely to get to know Tamiko well in the course of the game. He has the best technical skills, and is most likely to be able to hack into all of the alien computer terminals he encounters, and find the messages Tamiko left behind.
If anyone human can hack these consoles, I hope they find this message. My name is Tamiko Hoshinara. I was seized from the Planet Albuda IV by some sort of strange robot that emitted a sickening gas.
True to her role as a Damsel, Tamiko is most definitely trapped. She was captured on the surface, dragged down into this underground research facility, and she’s been used like all of the other living things you see as a test subject for awful experiments. The reason that she remains alive is that she’s been made immune to the Plague…and as most bio-scientists know, a living body makes a great storage receptacle for antigens and immunity to a disease.
That being said, the fact that Tamiko has been victimized does not mean that she follows the standard victim script and waits patiently for rescue. The messages she has left in the data banks of the facility are the result of her attempted escape. And she has some good advice for you, if you’re willing to take it. Instead of crying “Save me, hero!” she says:
If you find this message, please GET OUT of this facility while you can! I have no idea where I am now, but I can feel the weight of stone above me. It has to be at least a kilometer from the surface.
Like Tamiko, however, the player cannot back out of the Pit—the hatches to floors above seal above you over time. The only way is forward, and the only escape is victory. The situation is bleak, and often appears hopeless (don’t forget the dying, dying dying). But the messages Tamiko leaves behind also reflect her courage and her determination to figure out what’s going on, whatever the risk.
I've been trying to look inside the stasis chambers, to see the things that are sleeping inside. Some of the capture dates seem to go back hundreds, even thousands of years.
Tamiko is not a completely helpless or useless human being. You can tell she definitely spent at least a few days playing “Die Hard” in this hell-hole.
I managed to destroy one of the bigger robots and pulled out its Cybernetic Brain. It's an amazingly powerful processor. I wish I had an Engineer with me...I'm sure we could rig it to do something useful.
Eventually, of course, things went wrong. But Tamiko didn’t go down without a fight:
You can only meddle with the door locks twice before you trigger an alarm. I found this out the hard way. Bleeding now, and I'm out of ammunition for this weapon. I don't think I can hold out much longer.
Damsel in distress or not, Tamiko eventually realizes that she’s become immune to the Plague and she is a good enough scientist to understand the implications.
They want to keep me here, locked up in a stasis chamber forever. I can't let them do that. If I can break out of this Pit, I could save thousands of lives on Albuda IV alone. Maybe billions, if the Plague somehow spread beyond the system.
Winning the game, regardless of which character you choose, is about saving the Damsel. But even Tamiko would agree that her life as an individual is irrelevant, in the greater scheme of things. The player has to save Tamiko, not just because “Hey, she’s cute”, but because she is a wellspring of life for every human being who has been exposed to this disease. And whether you free her as her twin sister, her future husband, or as a friendly stranger, Tamiko is the alternative to death—not just for the player but for all humankind.
She’s not just a Damsel in Distress, in other words. She’s a symbol of universal salvation.
Stick that trope in your pipe and smoke it.
Arinn Dembo: http://arinndembo.com
Dedicated Game Website: http://sots-thepit.com/
Buy the Game at Gamer’s Gate: http://www.gamersgate.com/DD-SOTSPIT/sword-of-the-stars-the-pit
TV TROPES Page for the Sword of the Stars universe: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/SwordOfTheStars?from=Main.SwordOfTheStars
The Game on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/233700/
|Posted by Liz Strange on March 7, 2013 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
Inspired by the mythology of Wales.....
Fair Folk In Knob's End (The Daughter's of Annwn), my very first YA fantasy novel has recently been released by Featherweight Press. Find out more about the book and its whimsical characters HERE.
|Posted by Liz Strange on January 20, 2013 at 12:35 AM||comments (0)|
Intriguing Character Occupations
By Laurie London
As a romance reader, I’ve found that my favorite stories are those where I can relate to the characters, particularly the heroine. If I can put myself in her shoes as I turn the pages, it’s easier to pretend that her experiences are mine. Even if our lives are totally different, our hopes and dreams make us similar. And if she has an interesting job or career—one I’ve had, wish I had, or that I just find fascinating— I’m in reader heaven.
Sookie Stackhouse of the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris is a waitress. I’ve been a cocktail waitress and can relate to her crazy hours, the unwelcome come-ons, and customers who’ve had too much to drink.
Teal Williams from Undertow by Cherry Adair is a master boat mechanic. Not that I’ve ever wanted to work on engines, but I found it fascinating how she became well-respected in a field dominated by men. She reminded me of the sweet, yet socially awkward Kaylee in Firefly.
Sara McMillan in If I Were You by Lisa Renee Jones is a schoolteacher working in an art gallery for the summer. She’s an everywoman character who ends up living the ultimate fantasy.
In my Sweetblood vampire series, I wanted to write about heroines with careers and personalities that would intrigue me as a reader.
Mackenzie in Bonded By Blood is a movie location scout and an art teacher. She gets to travel around the Pacific Northwest looking for the perfect spot to shoot various film projects for clients, and she teaches painting classes at an art studio.
Lily from Embraced By Blood is a vampire known for her tracking abilities. She’s well-respected among her peers, even though her parents believe she should stay home and have more babies.
Arianna from Tempted By Blood works for a gaming company by day and blogs about the paranormal at night. I interviewed a good friend who is one of the animators of a very popular game. Through his input, I developed the scenario where Arianna and Jackson steal company secrets from her employer…including the part about the developer who was teased for wearing My Little Pony underwear.
Roxy from Seduced By Blood is the head of a training academy for vampire warriors. She’s a librarian of sorts—someone who collects and disseminates information, and she’s unaccustomed to hand-to-hand combat. So when she’s thrown into a situation where she needs to kick some butt, no one expects her to succeed.
And in the two short stories in the series, Brianna from Hidden By Blood wants to become a doctor, and Charlotte from Enchanted By Blood (A Vampire for Christmas anthology) is a party planner.
How about you? What are some of your favorite character occupations?
Learn more abut Laurie:
|Posted by Liz Strange on January 11, 2013 at 4:45 PM||comments (0)|
My bad-boy black magician Jamie elicits strong reactions in readers. Now that’s an understatement if ever there was. And he has a funny way about him, because he sinks his claws into you, and you kinda love him dearly though you often want to slap him upside the head for acting like an idjit. I reckon folks love him because they get to vicariously appreciate his badness without having to suffer any of the repercussions. Kinda like being able to go out and party without suffering the hangover, right? Actions result in consequences for Jamie? Oh yeah, and then some. Don’t believe me? Here’s a few readers’ opinions…
“This isn’t a Hollywood story where wizards duel on highways by flinging fireballs and invoking ghosts. The magic is more subtle, and that makes it easier to imagine that the story is taking place in your own backyard.” – Zane Marc Gentis, The Chemical Dream blog
“This is not my usual genre, urban fantasy/horror, but I was caught up in this gritty, brutal, graphic story from the very beginning pages. Strong, evocative writing. Compelling, dark tale. Highly recommended if you’re into the dark side.” – Patricia Burroughs, Goodreads
“First novel? Come off it, Dorman is no apprentice. She’s pulled something out of the hat with this one, but then she’s a practicing magician and no, it’s not a white bunny she’s holding in her hand. Then again, if being scared wasn’t irresistible, you wouldn’t be reaching out to take it.” – Greg Hamerton, author
So, yeah, I recently rebooted my bad boy, and Khepera Rising is now once again available in ebook (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/260385) and dead tree (http://www.amazon.com/Khepera-Rising-Volume-Nerine-Dorman/dp/1481141228/) formats.
Stalk me on Twitter at nerinedorman if you dare, or follow my blog at http://nerinedorman.blogspot.com
|Posted by Liz Strange on January 1, 2013 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
Well, 2012 has been an interesting year. here are some of the highlights:
A Second Chance at Forever finally came out in print! A long road, but well worth the wait. Expect the third and final novel in the Dark Kiss series to be released in 2013.
The second David Lloyd Investigations novel, A Fresh Set of Eyes, was released in June, and like the first book has received much praise from readers and reviewers alike!
I sold my first YA fantasy novel!! Expect Fair Folk in Knob's End (The Daughters of Annwn #1) to be released in eary 2013.
At present two short stories are under consideration for two different anthologies. Fingers crossed they get picked!
The Shadow made the semi finals at the 2012 Shriekfest Film & Screenplay competition. Expect more work from me in the screenwriting field in 2013. I already have plans to enter a new project in the Female Eye Film Festival and Outfest 2013.
I have also started my first science fiction novel, and after some encouragement from a reputable source I have firm plans to finish it. Hopefully Erased will see the light of day. If not not it was an excellent experience to try my hand at a new genre.
I was an attending author at Bloody Words 2012 and Can Con, both wonderful experiences where I got to meet many talented authors and other industry professionals. I also became a memeber of SF Canada.
New stories continue to swirl about in my brian, and I hope to be even more productive in 2013. As always I love to hear from readers, so please feel free to email or leave me a message on this site.
|Posted by Liz Strange on August 31, 2012 at 9:25 AM||comments (1)|
The Jackson Series’ Great Comeback
Dying for Justice, the fifth book in the Detective Jackson series, is now the top-rated crime fiction on Amazon—but I almost abandoned this novel before I wrote it.
In early 2010, when I plotted the story, I had to decided to give up the series because it was floundering under a small publisher. I thought if I could launch a new series with a new character and new publisher, I might be able to save my career. So I mapped out a plot in which Detective Evans, one of Jackson’s sidekicks, was the lead character with Jackson as a strong secondary character—hoping my readers would come along with the new series.
Then everything changed. My husband and I were laid off our jobs (again!), e-books started to take off, and I re-envisioned my novelist career. I set this story aside to rewrite two standalone thrillers and publish them on Kindle, then to regain the rights to my other Jackson novels and self-publish them as well. That took six months.
In October, my series became a bestseller on Kindle and readers were asking for more Jackson novels. At that point, I was ready to start writing again. After reading through my outline for the Evans-based story, I decided I really liked the plot and would go ahead and write it, giving the two detectives equal POV roles.
Dying for Justice went on to become my readers’ favorite and my highest-rated story. It also launched the Evans character who later took a starring role in The Gauntlet Assassin. So here’s an excerpt to the Jackson story that almost didn’t make it to publication, but I’m so glad it did.
Sunday, September 5, 8:05 a.m.
Gina opened her eyes, taking in the white blanket and blue-scrub nurse. Her first thought was: This is a hospital. Her second thought was: Someone tried to kill me. She wanted to speak but her throat was dry. “Water, please,” she managed to say, sounding weak and scratchy.
The nurse jumped, eyes popping open in surprise. She fumbled in her pocket for a cell phone and ran from the room. Gina wanted to call after her but she had no strength. She’d been half-awake off and on for what seemed like weeks, but this was the first time someone was in the room when she had the clarity and strength to speak. How long had she been in the hospital?
The nurse returned after a few minutes with more medical people—a woman in a white doctor’s coat and a man in a suit. The nurse offered Gina some water, and the woman in white said, “I’m Dr. Ellison. Do you know where you are?”
“Not exactly.” The doctor smiled gently.
A wave of apprehension rolled over Gina.
“This is a long-term care facility.”
Dread seeped into her fragile bones. “How long have I been here?”
The doctor hesitated. “Two years.”
Two years? Gina closed her eyes. No. This was just another strange dream. She’d had a lot of unpleasant dreams lately.
“Gina, stay with us.”
The voice sounded real. The blanket between her fingers felt soft, textured, and real. The feeding tube in her belly ached with real pain. Gina opened her eyes again. “Two years?” She remembered being forty-four. That would make her forty-six now.
“I know this is difficult to process, but the important thing is that you survived. And now you’re awake.” The doctor kept smiling.
A terrifying memory flooded Gina’s senses, making her heart pound. The masked man had been in her dreams sometimes, but this was different. Gina practiced the words in her head first, then struggled to say, “He tried to kill me.”
The group at her beside registered a collective look of surprise, followed by disbelief. Again, the doctor was the first to speak. “Your file says you took an overdose of Valium and Demerol. Do you remember that?”
“No.” Gina shook her head. Her brain felt fuzzy, as if she were about to drift off, but she desperately wanted to say something. “I was attacked.”
The medical people looked at each other, puzzled. The man in the suit said, “There’s no record of that in your file.”
The nurse gently touched Gina’s arm. “Would you like me to call the police?”
Gina would have laughed but she didn’t have the energy. Two years had passed and the bastard would likely get away with it. Was anything left of her life out there? Despair washed over her and she fought back tears. “Yes. Call the cops.”
“I’ll do it now.” The nurse left the room.
The man in the suit followed, saying, “Let’s keep this low-key.”
Gina fought to stay awake. She’d been asleep for so long. Yet a wave of fog rolled over her and she drifted. Before she went under again, a small piece of her life before this room bubbled to the surface. She’d been compiling evidence against her soon-to-be-ex-husband. What had happened to her notebook?
L.J. Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/thriller series as well as provocative standalone thrillers. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and RT Reviews, and the Jackson books are Kindle bestsellers as well as top-ranked novels. L.J. is also an award-winning journalist who earned the Grand Neal in trade magazines. When not plotting crime stories, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences.
|Posted by Liz Strange on August 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM||comments (20)|
'What Writing GLBTQ Literature Means to Me'
Where do I begin? It seems so strange to me that in this day and age stories about same sex romance, relationships or just plain sex still garners such strong reactions. I firmly believe that we are all equal, and that love and lust and part of the experience of every human life, straight, gay or otherwise.
I am proud to be an author of GLBT stories, as an extension of my ongoing support of acceptence and freedom for all.
Plus I'm a big m/m fangirl!
So please leave me a message and be entered to win a copy of my new mystery, A Fresh Set of Eyes. I will make a random selection from all those that post.
Check out reviews of all your favourites and discover some new authors at:
|Posted by Liz Strange on July 20, 2012 at 2:50 PM||comments (0)|
It's been a while since I've done a general update and soooo many things have happend I figured I should take the time.
First off-- The Dark Kiss Trilogy has been picked up by a new publisher and the whole series will be released in print!! Hooray! My Love Eternal is already available, and A Second Chance at Forever has finished its editing process, should be out in the next few weeks. Watch for Book 3 in the Fall.
A Fresh Set of Eyes, the follow up to last year's popular Missing Daughter, Shattered Family is now out! Thanks for all the positive feedback and inquiries into more books for this series-- it does an author's heart good.
I have sold my first YA novel, a fantasy-adventure based on the oh-so-cool mythology of Wales. Watch for Fair Folk in Knob's End this fall.
I attended this year's Bloody Words con and spoke on the panel for Crossing Genres.
Screenplays--After last eyar's successful foray into screenwriting I have again entered Shriekfest with my newest project, The Shadow. I have also entered Screamfest and I hope to make the finals at one (or both) of these wonderful festivals.
Other wonderful, exciting things in the works, but announcements will have to wait a bit longer.
Keep checking in and thank-you for your continued interest and support.