Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

INTERSTELLAR - Thrilling and Thought-provoking

My review of “Interstellar”, written by Jonathon and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan.

by Tom Olbert

Theatrical release poster
The first science fiction film in quite a while to revolve around an optimistic imagining of humanity’s first interstellar voyage was a refreshing change from the purely violent sci-fi of the past few years. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. In some ways, I found it disappointing, in others pleasantly surprising. Less an imagined journey than a dark dream. Less a speculation than an abstract thought. It dealt more with inner space than outer, presenting age-old questions of human nature and philosophy, hand-in-hand with new theories of the space-time continuum.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas

Those immortal lines praising the human spirit in its rebellion against the inevitability of death in fighting to remain vital to the very end were read in the film by an aging scientist played by Michael Caine. The film is set in a dark future time in which the Earth itself is dying and humanity has the choice of meekly accepting extinction or fighting to escape it by reaching for the stars. The grim future landscape forming the backdrop for this most unusual film isn’t like a sci-fi setting or typical Hollywood post-apocalyptic landscape of broken urban skylines and shambling zombies.

Rather, it’s an all-too-familiar small town setting in the American heartland. A small farming town of cornfields and dusty roads, patterned after the great Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. The Earth has fallen under a blight that’s killing the crops and burying the land under a shroud of dust. The world is ending with a whimper, not a bang. The nations have fallen from power and greatness. There are no more armies or wars. Only farmers struggling to subsist on the last few crops that will grow in the increasingly sterile soil. Dreams and ambitions of advancement are now forbidden. The school textbooks have been re-written to teach the kids that the Apollo moon landings never happened, that they were just propaganda inventions to trick the Soviet Union into bankrupting itself in the space race. The last generation of humanity is being taught that they are now a race of caretakers (or, undertakers?), no longer pioneers or explorers.

Matthew Mcconaughey plays an all-American kind of guy; last of a dying breed. A NASA pilot turned farmer, he refuses to let go of the old dreams and encourages his young daughter to dream of a brighter tomorrow and to reach for the horizon. His relationship with her is damaged when he chooses to leave her and strike out for space. His mission to the stars is not envisioned as some grandiose international project as you might expect. It looks more like some secret school project assembled in some kid’s garage. It begins with a child’s fantasy; a knocking in the closet that she attributes to a ghost, and mysterious writing in the dust. In binary code, no less. Supernatural, or a message from some alien intelligence? When the binary transmission reveals a transdimensional wormhole in deep space, a hearty band of explorers is off to the stars in search of a new home for humankind.

The special effects are muted; not grandiose, but effective. The sight of a spacecraft looking as tiny as a mote of dust as it passes over the rings of Saturn or skims across the event horizon of a black hole does what science fiction does best: It makes us feel small, insignificant and awe-struck by the grandeur of the universe. The space scenes are reminiscent of the film “Gravity,” and of Stanley Kubrick’s immortal “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Silent explosions in the black vacuum of space. A lone astronaut tumbling like a spec in the cosmic wind into the heart of a singularity.

Nietzche once said: “And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”

What “Interstellar” seems to say is that the abyss of the cosmic void is really a mirror; gaze into it long enough and all you’ll see is yourself looking back. The real you, and all you might become.

The themes in this movie are timeless. The pettiness and selfishness of human nature is acknowledged. People don’t commit selfless, noble acts any further than the field of their own vision. Governments often base their governance on lies big enough for all to believe. And, whatever evil we encounter in the darkness is just what we brought out there with us. But, hope is presented in the form of the idea that love is real, and transcendent; perhaps the only aspect of humanity that can cross the dimensions.

The philosophical questions are timeless, too: Is free will real, or are our destinies predetermined? Are we alone, or is there a greater presence external to us, watching over us? The answer to both questions transcends both options, as the two turn out to be interchangeable.

The plot, like the universe, is circular, everything coming full circle in the end, the looping storyline artfully interwoven with theories of Einsteinian physics and quantum mechanics. Like Columbus, the first explorers into interstellar space seem to discover that the universe, like the Earth, is curved; travel far enough in any direction, and you arrive back where you started, though perhaps wiser for the journey. Our choices determine our course, but we can’t control our destiny. We may look back and curse our past choices, frustrated in our inability to change the past, but enlightened by our seemingly limitless potential to change the future. In the end, it’s about letting go of the past, and embracing the future. The journey is both humbling and empowering.

The criticism that comes most readily to science fiction … real science fiction, that is; the kind that’s actually intended to provoke thought … is that it’s too much tell, not enough show. The writer is exploring unfamiliar territory, so only so much can be illustrated by action without explanation. This film makes a good attempt, though. The genre’s evolving through changing times. And, I’d say this was a step in the right direction.

~Tom

Here is a brief introduction to Tom Olbert's book LONG HAUL.

This trucker's haul takes him to the end of time and space, and beyond...

In the near future, physicists have stumbled on a way to open rifts into other universes, making it possible to transport goods and people anywhere in the world in nothing flat. The unscrupulous corporation that owns the new technology uses it to monopolize shipping worldwide

Thrill-seeking, death-defying truckers like veteran army driver Garth Jenkins and his gun-toting trucking partner Sally Drake earn hazardous duty pay by hauling rigs through perilous alien universes often infested with deadly alien monsters and many other dangers besides.

Garth and Sally accept a shady corporate contract to deliver some unknown cargo to an alien universe, no questions asked. It looks like an easy way to score big money. But, things go south fast when their truck is hijacked by the beautiful and mysterious Keira Takahashi, and they find themselves pursued by hideous alien parasites in undead human bodies.

On the run and in danger, Garth and Sally find themselves on a crooked cosmic road leading to bizarre other worlds and exotic time periods. They have one chance to unravel the company's twisted plot and save themselves. Whether they succeed or fail may decide the fate of a universe...

To read more on Long Haul please click a vendor's name.
Musa Publishing - Amazon

Tom Olbert lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts; cradle of the American Revolution, and home of University egg heads and kooky liberals. He loves it there. His work has most recently appeared in Musa Publishing. Previously in Mocha Memoirs Press, Eternal Press, and such anthologies as Ruthless, Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous, Something Wicked Vol II, In the Bloodstream, and Torched.

When he’s not working or writing sci-fi or horror, Tom volunteers for causes he cares about. He comes from a most interesting family; his mother, Norma Olbert is currently self-publishing a biography of the life of Tom’s dad Stan Olbert, a retired MIT physicist and veteran of the Polish underground during WWII. Tom’s sister Elizabeth Olbert is an artist, art teacher, and avid lover of horses.

Learn more about Tom Olbert on his blog Other Dimensions.

Will You Score?

Writing Goals
by Sloane Taylor

Well will you? Are you determined? Self-motivated? Ready to give it your all and fight?


If you’re a new writer, undoubtedly you’re positive the New Year is the year. Your year. The year you will sell and prosper. It sure could be, but it’s all up to you. And there’s no time like the present to start planning.

Have you thought of what you’ll do to make your dream come true? How you are going to make it happen? When, besides sometime in 2015?

GOALS…BUSINESS PLAN… These are words you need to consider. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But have you decided your goals or written a plan? Don’t panic. Neither has to be on the order of a Fortune 500 company. Keep it simple, something that will work for you.

Today, we will concentrate on goals and save the business plan for a separate post.

Is it okay if we use me as an example? You agree? Thanks!

My goals for the New Year are;

1 - Edit my present book
2 - Write the second book in the series

Each of these works will be 50,000 plus words when completed. Success requires a plan, in my case a written plan, because it is never going to happen if I just sit around and dream. Allow me to share how I approach this mind-numbing task.

I’m a daily to-do list and calendar freak. I like my life plotted and planned. Of course, there has to be room for flexibility. By having an ADJUSTABLE plan I’ve got it made.


To work out a feasible system of accomplishing my two goals, I grabbed a legal pad and the calendar, which already has enough social commitments listed for the year to make me weep, and parked myself in a comfortable chair.


We’ll lay out the schedule for each goal in two separate plans for easier reading.

Goal 1 – Edit my present book

This novel has twenty-four chapters and an epilogue.

All of it has been printed because I work better with a hard copy. I will study each chapter, one at a time, and scrawl notes to myself all over its pages and, when I run out of space, into a spiral notebook. This way, I can easily take a chapter with to pore over while I’m waiting for an appointment, a slow moving train, or anything else which has me sitting and doing zip.

I want this work done in a relatively short period of time, hopefully thirty days. By reading the calendar I know there are many days when editing just isn’t possible. Personal appointments or necessary chores are marked in red. Writing tasks such as blogging, research, characterization, reading trade magazines, and so forth are noted in blue.

The good days have listed a chapter number and a brief note as to what must be done to finish the edits. All Fridays are reserved to re-read that week’s edits and make any changes.

So the calendar looks like the following;

Sunday January 4
No work today. Play with my granddaughters.

Monday January 5
Chapter 3
Bring in tour business somehow / change D’s business purchase to a tax audit? Will it work? Simplify

Tuesday January 6
Chapter 10
T must confess credit card over extended / Move dialogue from pg 89 here

Wednesday January 7
Great sale at Carson’s!! If I finished my work I can reward myself!!!
Dentist at 2
Meet Lor for dinner at 7

Thursday January 8
Jesse here at 8 a.m. for her edits
Pick up C from school 3:15 – take along Chapter 19 to edit
Chapter 20
Embellish sex scene / needs more emotion – switch to hero’s POV

Friday January 9
No time to worry about superstition
Re-read three chapters and approve
Out with the friends at 7

Saturday January 10
No work today. Play with Studs.

Please note the chapters are not in sequence. To finish in my allotted time, I’ve selected the easiest chapters to final edit and saved the more involved for the end of my month. It’s a trick I do to reduce the load while I mentally work out those tough scenes that are driving me crazy.

My daily to-do list will embellish on the above such as;

This is the calendar entry;
Monday January 5
Chapter 3
Bring in tour business somehow / change D’s business purchase to a tax audit? Will it work? Simplify

This is the to-do list;
1. read chap as is
2. check POV of D – is it all his?
3. embellish D’s anger through his actions
4. is C a big enough pain in the ass?
5. is the setting over described
6. check out tax audit info to be accurate
7. lunch at 1- no exceptions
8. walk around and do neck exercises in am & afternoon
9. My daily to-do list will embellish on the above such as;

It is very important to treat your goals seriously. You need to work at your writing career with the same diligence as a full-time job if you want to succeed. Let the machine pick up those calls, stay off the internet, eat, drink plenty of fluids preferably water, take scheduled breaks. And above all, have fun.

As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re not comfortable posting a comment here or prefer to talk privately, email me at sloanetaylor@comcast.net with WRITING in the subject line. I’m happy to spend time with you.

~Sloane

Award-Winning author Sloane Taylor believes humor and sex are healthy aspects of our everyday lives and carries that philosophy into her books. She writes sexually explicit romances that take you right into the bedroom. Being a true romantic, all her stories have a happy ever after.

Her books are set in Europe where the men are all male and the North American women they encounter are both feminine and strong. They also bring more than lust to their men’s lives.

To read excerpts from the erotic romances by Sloane Taylor, please click HERE.

Learn more about Sloane Taylor on her website, and her blog for easy recipes. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CUPCAKES IN THE PARK

by HL Carpenter


The day was perfect; one of those low humidity, blue sky, breeze-off-the-lake fall days that made tourists flock to central Florida. Green and yellow tents filled the park and costumes were the attire of choice. Dogs in costumes, babies in costumes, teens in costumes, turtles in costumes; every life form Andi encountered wore a costume.

Her own costume was her usual jeans and boots, topped by a red tank and a red cap to match the red linen covering the platter of cupcakes in her hands. This year the cupcakes were salted caramel apple. The recipe was new and the friends who’d taste-tested had raved over them. They were sinfully delicious and should easily be the best cupcakes in the park.

She’d still baked three batches before she was satisfied. Competition in the Cupcake Wars at the annual Cooter Festival was always fierce.

She signed in, took her number, and walked to the table at the end of the tent. To get to her assigned spot, she had to step around a lumbering turtle. The damp lettuce leaf draped over its shell was only partly a costume. The real reason for the decoration was that the turtles—or cooters as the locals called them—were well cared for and the festival organizers were making sure this one stayed cool.

Andi put the cupcakes and her bag on the table and took her place beside a leggy teen. The girl had crafted sugar lily pads, fairy wings, and miniature frogs to go with her mint and chocolate cupcakes. With their pink frosting and blue polka dots, the cupcakes seemed ready for an impish tea party as she positioned them on a miniature tree-shaped stand.

After Andi finished setting her cupcakes on the upended crystal goblets she’d brought, she walked along the exhibit table to greet the other contestants. The confections were as varied as the bakers. Classic vanilla, red velvet, peanut butter truffle, tiramisu, banana walnut, double maple, pumpkin spice—all mouthwateringly scrumptious and worthy adversaries. With luck the proud presenters would not be sore losers.

When the judging began, Andi took her assigned place and handed out samples to the judges. As her friends had proclaimed, her cupcakes got high marks for taste. But when all the votes were tallied, the leggy teen’s presentation won the blue ribbon.

Andi congratulated the young baker and admired the silky ribbon. Then she distributed the rest of the salted caramel apple cupcakes to the passers-by and packed her goblets. As she stepped past the exhibit table, she hooked her boot around the metal leg and tugged. The table tipped. The teen’s beautiful display landed in the dirt with a splat, icing-side down. The other contestants gasped. The lettuce-draped turtle moved in for a taste.

Andi settled her hat more securely over her hair so her horns wouldn’t show and elbowed her way through the crowd.

There might have been better cupcakes than hers in the park that day.
But she didn’t think so.

Sinfully Delicious Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Batter
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Put ¼ cup apples and 1 tablespoon butter in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute at 50% power to soften. Mash with a fork (lumps are okay). Let cool.

Cream together the stick of softened butter and brown sugar. Blend eggs and vanilla into the creamed mixture. Add the mashed apples and heavy cream to the batter and mix well.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Batter will be thick.

Fold chopped apple pieces into batter.

Line a 12-muffin tin with baking cups. Spoon batter evenly into the cups.

Bake 20 minutes.

Let cupcakes rest in pan for five minutes. Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

Frosting
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in pot on stove over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in salt.

Let mixture bubble for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost cooled cupcakes.

Caramel Sauce
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter
2/3 cup heavy cream

Heat sugar and water in pot on stove over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils.

Let mixture boil without further stirring until it browns to the color of caramel. Add butter and stir until butter is melted.

Remove from heat. Add heavy cream. Stir until the bubbling stops and the sauce is smooth. Drizzle over cupcakes.

Remaining sauce can be used for other recipes.

For additional flavor, garnish cupcakes with a sprinkle of salt.

Makes 12 cupcakes

After all your hard work, how about treating yourself to a break with a devilishly good book?

Who killed Fyne Literature? The Fictional Book Investigation Agency is on the case—and the lead investigator is closer to the culprit than he realizes.

Ivy League wants to learn who murdered the love of her life. The Fictional Book Investigation Agency agrees to take the case, and soon discovers a surplus of suspects.

Is the killer one of the victim’s many enemies? Is there more to the story than anyone knows? The Agency’s profiler has a clue, yet she’s remarkably reticent.

For the lead investigator, unraveling the plot means confronting the mystery within.

EXCERPT:
Jane said, “So, we have Ivy League, who loves Fyne Literature. Fyne Literature was murdered by an explosion of serial killer hackwork in a distressingly predictable plot produced by an unknown party or parties.”

“Precisely. Ivy said Fyne had become reclusive over the past few years, hiding on a shelf in the university library, so I thought I would start by interviewing his former friends. Three of them in particular, the ones Ivy said had grown to dislike him intensely.”

“Would they be Booke Publisher, Ima Reeder, and Manny Authors?”

“So you were listening.”

“Are those your only suspects?”

I frowned. “Do you have someone else you think I should consider?”

To read an excerpts from all the books written by HL Carpenter click a vendor's name
Musa Publishing
Amazon


HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter writing team. Their latest young adult novel is Walled In, the story of Vandy Spencer, who discovers her entire life has been built on a heart-shattering deception when her father is accused of fraud. Learn more about HL Carpenter on their website.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Writer’s Influence on Thanksgiving

by Leigh Goff

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, filled with sweet memories of family traveling to reunite and warm aromas of savory stuffing and pumpkin pie spice wafting through the house. But I have always wondered, how did this holiday come to be?

The first national Thanksgiving in the U.S. was celebrated in 1863, but what I did not realize was that a persistent American woman and writer was responsible for eloquently persuading President Lincoln to adopt the holiday nationwide.

Who was she? Sarah Josepha Hale, famous for penning the children’s poem, “Mary had a Little Lamb,” was born and educated in New England where Thanksgiving had always been celebrated. She was raised by a strong mother to believe that a woman should be educated and use her intellect and influence to quietly sway opinion, and in her time, Sarah used her writing skills, like water carving out a canyon, to slowly and persistently work to change a nation’s calendar in a campaign that would last nearly three decades.

In her first novel, Northwood, published in 1826, she described, in the very first written description, what a Thanksgiving dinner looked like. The following excerpt was taken from the website of Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Mass.: “The table, covered with a damask cloth, vieing in whiteness...was now intended for the whole household...and the more the better, it being considered an honor for a man to sit down to his Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by a large family.” Hale described the abundance of holiday food, which included roasted turkey with savory stuffing, goose, duck, chicken pie, and the list of decadent desserts, including pumpkin pie and plum pudding, were equally as abundant.

Several years after Northwood and several written requests to U.S. Presidents asking for a national day of Thanksgiving, Sarah Josepha published Traits of American Life, a collection of short stories, one of which was titled, “The Thanksgiving of the Heart.” In this story she wrote, “Our good ancestors were wise, even in their mirth. We have a standing proof of this in the season they chose for the celebration of our annual festival, the Thanksgiving...There is a deep moral influence in these periodical seasons of rejoicing, in which a whole community participate. They bring out, and together, as it were, the best sympathies of our nature. The rich contemplate the enjoyments of the poor with complacency, and the poor regard the entertainments of the rich without envy, because all are privileged to be happy in their own way.”

In 1837, as the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular woman’s periodical, she wrote an editorial about Thanksgiving and praised the holiday for its domestic and moral influence, for its ability to bring separated family members together. She also suggested that the last Thursday of November be the day to celebrate the holiday. She continued writing editorials for the next decade and a half, hoping to influence the country. In 1859, almost every state celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.

The following year, as tensions between the North and South divided the country, she wrote about the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to promote a national spirit. When the Civil War broke out the next year, Sarah placed her campaign on hold, not realizing the end of the war would reinforce the importance of establishing the holiday.

On September 28, 1863, Sarah wrote to President Abraham Lincoln. The following was taken from the website of Pilgrim Hall Museum: “As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories; also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag -- could he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus the great Union Festival of America would be established.”

Finally, after nearly three decades of campaigning, Sarah Josepha’s request was honored. On October 3, Lincoln issued a proclamation that the last Thursday in November should be observed as a day of Thanksgiving. Like water wearing down rocks and shaping valleys with its persistence, Hale’s written word wore down the will of man and carved out a holiday to bring families of one nation together to give thanks.

With gratitude to Sarah Josepha Hale for the years I have enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with my family garnished with roasted turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and love, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

~Leigh

Here is a brief intro to Leigh's debut novel Disenchanted. This YA fantasy romance releases December 19, 2014.

A dark curse, a forbidden love.

Orphaned sixteen-year-old Sophie Greensmith is an outcast among the ordinaries and her coven, but not because she’s untalented. Descended from a powerful Wethersfield witch, her spellcasting gift is awkwardly emerging, but that’s the least of her worries. The boy she’s forbidden to fall for, a descendant of the man who condemned her ancestor to hang, carries a dark secret that could destroy them both unless Sophie learns how to tap into the mysterious power of her diamond bloodcharm. Suspenseful, dark, romantic, and brimming with old magic, Disenchanted captures the intrigue of New England’s witchlore.

EXCERPT:
I sat, soaking wet, shaking from the adrenaline. Whoever he was, he rescued me from the would-be thief who bore the symbol of the Leos, a breath-saving nickname I gave Judge Mather’s Law Enforcement Organization. I strained to see, but the rain drops clinging to my long eyelashes blurred my vision. I wiped them away as my heart settled to an even pace.

With his back to me, he watched the thief disappear into the stormy night. He ran his hands through his thick, wavy, wet hair. His broad shoulders relaxed before he turned to offer me assistance. He extended his long arm to help me to my feet. I hesitated for a second, unsure of him, but as he reached for me, our fingers brushed together. A shock of electricity bolted through my hand. I froze as I caught the surprised reaction on his face, telling me he felt it, too. His fingers clasped firmly around mine and, with no effort, he pulled me to my feet. Unsteady, I pressed my hands against his firm muscled chest that showed through the drenched white shirt. A dizzy, swirly sensation swept through my head as if I were on a merry-go-round spinning around at one hundred miles per hour.

He had to be six feet tall.

“Are you okay?” he asked in a smooth British accent. His deep voice vibrated with tension, sending warm chills inside me.

I balanced myself and brushed my wet hair behind my ears, swallowing hard. A British accent that could make a girl melt if the girl didn’t have alarm bells going off in her head. There were no Brits currently living in our small part of Wethersfield, which meant he had to be one of them. My wide eyes flitted around, looking for a clue to make sense of why the statuesque Mather boy with his soaking wet shirt and black tailored pants left the comfort of his father’s manor house to brave the storm.

He stepped closer, breaching the already slim gap between us and forcing my eyes up. The streetlight illuminated his handsome features. His ivory complexion, dappled with raindrops and a shadow of thick stubble, revealed a hint of blush as if it were wintertime and the cold air had plucked at his cheeks.

I followed the perfect straight line of his nose to his brooding, dark eyes full of mystery. His eyes wandered over the details of my face and settled on my own, waiting for me to reply. A warm, wet breeze swirled up from behind him and wrapped his alluring scent around me; clean, floral and woodsy and thoroughly masculine. I inhaled again and again, unable to exhale. With all the plants and flowers I had smelled in my lifetime, he smelled better than any, alone or in combination. I wavered slightly, side to side, feeling dazed. I gulped a mouthful of air, trying not to breathe him in. What was wrong with me? I shook myself out of the stupor.

“Did you know that man?” he asked.

“Did you?” I said in an accusatory tone, but at that moment, I didn’t care about the attacker.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He drew back like I was crazy for suggesting anything.

He was the enemy. Say something, I thought. “What…what are you doing out here anyway?”


He furrowed his eyebrows inward. “Saving you, obviously.”

I threw my hands on my hips, shocked by the irony. A Mather helping a Greensmith? Hell was freezing over somewhere beneath our feet and every kind of farm animal was sprouting wings to fly. “That’s impossible.”

“And why is that?”

“Because…because you’re a Mather,” I said, not meaning to sound disgusted, but I struggled to contain my feelings. Fact was, the Mathers had Greensmith blood on their hands, as well as my coven’s blood. Through Wethersfield’s history, they were known as witch-hunters and with each generation, they changed only to appear more politically correct, but their intentions remained unchanged.

His eyes tensed at the corners, as if it were possible he didn’t hate me. “And what does that mean?”

Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it's also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area's great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers' Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and will be released by Musa Publishing in December 2014.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

THREE MINUTES with ANDREW LEON HUDSON

Where did you get the idea for The Glass Sealing?
I originally discovered the submission call for the Darkside Codex while hunting for story prompts. I'm a member of an online writing group, and every two months we have an informal short story contest – the winner's prize is to choose the subject of the next contest, and in December 2012 that was me. In early January I saw the post on the Penumbra website, and when I read the description of the story world one thing immediately stood out: the Dark Cloud, a dense toxic smog which divided the city of Southwatch in two. Inspiration acquired!

I set the prompt “Poisonous Cloud” to the group – they were free to go with whatever they liked as long as it was sci-fi, horror or fantasy, but I explained where I'd found the prompt and suggested we write something that could give rise to a Darkside Codex novel if we wanted. A few of us tried, although in the end I couldn't make mine work as a short story – but I could spend the next few months developing it into the beginning of The Glass Sealing...

How did you develop your lead characters?
Once I'd sketched out my two adversaries in broad strokes, I started with their names. Steampunk authors tend to give their characters three, probably because it sounds old fashioned, so I decided I'd do the same with mine. However, I also wanted names that were emblematic of my story.

Both would have first names with a slightly formal air to them, and I settled on Arthur and Jocelyn fairly quickly. In Jocelyn's case, I also wanted something “excessively” feminine to contrast with the unexpected toughness she shows as a businesswoman, so she became Jocelyn Melody – sounds very delicate and sing-song, perfect cover for her steely determination.

Several years ago I discovered a cool character name in “Marlen”, which is derived from Marx and Lenin and was popular amongst Communist Russian parents who wanted to reject traditional names (non-conformist communists seemed like an interesting mix to me). I'd been saving it up for the right character, and now I had a socialist activist in need of a handle... nice to meet you, Arthur Marlen.

Finally, a key theme of the story is the conflict between perspectives of social solidarity and class division, so I chose Singleton (for “a single town”) and Duville (duex ville, or “two town” in my clumsy French) to represent the sides that believe in unity or separation respectively. So there you have it: a left-leaning champion of the down-trodden workers, Arthur Marlen Singleton, versus an upper-class darling of ruthless big-business, Jocelyn Melody Duville. Let battle commence!

What drives you to write Steampunk?
I love the trappings of the genre. The typical pseudo-Victorian era settings lend themselves perfectly to a striking visual aesthetic, while playing off the very real enthusiasm for scientific exploration that characterized the period. Looking back though, that exploration seems wildly unbounded by what we now would consider to be scientific: seances and other supernatural notions might be considered as credible as hypnotism, for example, if not more so; and in the face of our ignorance of the nature of the universe, ideas like luminiferous aether or Lamarckian inheritance seem just as plausible as the truths that would later be revealed. Winding the clock back and pretending that these kinds of science were correct can only be fun!

At the same time, this was also a period of painful injustice on a social level. The legacy of cultural imperialism saw rich western nations straddling most of the globe and subjugating the rest, plundering their resources and dictating what was permissible in a brutal fashion. Women's suffrage, racial or religious equality and other notions of basic human rights remained a fantasy, if they were even considered at all. As a backdrop for telling stories to a modern audience, these sorts of features are ripe with potential. The best way for characters to achieve greatness is to do so by struggling from adversity and, in its influences, Steampunk is a perfect setting for both.

Here is a short introduction to THE GLASS SEALING.

In a towering city powered by steam, opposing forces gather and prepare to clash, on the streets and in the air. Above the Dark Cloud of toxic smog, the rich and complacent live in comfort and bask in the sun. Below, the ordinary workers labour thanklessly in the choking gloom, their jobs ever threatened by the relentless advance of technology... until they decide they will not stand by and watch their lives and livelihoods be taken from them.

One one side a disgraced engineer, sympathetic to the workers' plight, becomes a ringleader in an outbreak of protests that gradually take a more sinister turn. On the other, an industrial heiress comes into her own against the expectations of her peers, defying convention even as she takes the establishment by storm. She puts into motion a plan that will change the face of the city forever - but when the authorities crack down on the workers, their leader sets them all on the path to destruction...

THE GLASS SEALING combines the long forgotten traumas of the Industrial Revolution with the activism of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The result is class warfare, in a classic adventure vein.

To read an excerpt from THE GLASS SEALING or other books by Andrew Leon Hudson please click a vendor's name Musa Publishing - Amazon.

Andrew Leon Hudson is an Englishman resident in Madrid, Spain and has been writing full-time since the beginning of 2012, partly in an attempt to appear as unemployed as everyone else in the country, partly in an attempt to lead a fulfilling life. In preparation for this he has worked in fields as diverse as prosthetic makeup, education, contact lens retail, “intoxicant delivery” and the services (customer and military). He used to have his own company, which employed family and friends, but it died before it's time. All of that's true, except for his name.

Learn more about Andrew Leon Hudson on his blog and Goodreads. Stay connected on Twitter.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

NEW RELEASE for FAY LEE

Musa Publishing is thrilled to announce the short story Colonists Like Us, a LGBTQ by Fay Lee, is now available.



Love is natural. So is fear.

When you have a sister as special as Emmy-Lou, you'll do anything to protect her—even sign up to colonize an empty planet, far from Earth and someone to touch, to hold or to love.

No-one could have predicted the consequences of that decision.

But when love turns to fear, when humanity's future lies in the balance, when you may be the only one to guess the truth… Who will you turn to?

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