This book started out so promising, with the concept of a perpetual afterlife where one can go anywhere, literally, even to the moon, but without being able to touch anything or anyone. Then it morphed into a 50s sci-fi movie, which is okay, but a little jolting from what I expected from the opening chapters. Other than that, it’s a super fun read, with lots of humor and interesting characters, including aggressive, greedy Martian ghosts. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy through NetGalley.
Jamie and Zoe meet in a memory loss group. They discover each other’s special powers and secret identities, which Jamie uses for self-gain and Zoe uses to fight crime. They must learn to trust each other to defeat a bigger villain. This is a very human superhero story about expectations, friendship, and what lurks right in front of us unseen. Chen is a talented storyteller and draws the reader into tension-filled scenes. I highly recommend anything by Mike Chen. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this great sci-fi tale from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley.
Ello. My name is Umair Mirxa. I live and write in Karachi, Pakistan. To be a published author is a dream I have long held and cherished, and it has finally, slowly come true over the past year or so. I have the honour of being published in several international anthologies, but there is much yet to achieve, including my first novel, and hopefully, an epic fantasy series. More recently, I have taken up drawing as a secondary creative outlet. When I am not writing, I spend my time on Netflix, reading, and watching football as an Arsenal FC fan.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.
The greatest and most ever-present inspiration for me is, and forever has been, J.R.R. Tolkien. I read my favourite passages from The Lord of the Rings whenever I’m stuck with my own writing or even generally if and when something has me down. Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Christopher Paolini are just a few of the other authors who have inspired me.
I don’t really work to a strict schedule unless faced with a looming deadline. I do, however, make a point of writing every single day, even if what I produce turns out to be spectacularly ridiculous rubbish. If the muse is singing, I have been known to write for 14-16 hour sessions without food or sleep. There are, of course, plenty of days when even a 100-word drabble seems like the most horrible chore. I write digitally using a desktop PC, sitting at a desk which has a notepad, a pen-holder, an ashtray, several mugs of coffee, and snacks and smokes in a room which contains my bookshelf, a TV, a PS4, plenty of light, and a couple of extremely comfortable leather sofas.
Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including services hired as a self-published author, and marketing.
While I have been published in nearly three dozen anthologies recently, I have yet to self-publish a book. Once it is ready, and hopefully the day is not too far off, I plan on seeking out a couple of author friends to beta-read the final draft, and then upload the final product to print-on-demand platforms like Amazon and Lulu. I am lucky enough to have professional experience as a graphic designer and a digital marketer, thus eliminating the need for hired services. I hope to create a decent cover myself, and I will definitely be doing my own marketing, at least for a while yet.
Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.
I feel I have been truly blessed when it comes to having a support system as a writer. My wife does everything possible to facilitate my process and schedule, and has been the greatest, most constant source of motivation and encouragement. My mother, both sisters, brother, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law and even their husbands have all cheered and spurred me on, and I have the greatest group of friends a guy can ask for in my corner, always. They have supported me, encouraged me, chastised me when necessary, and contributed ideas and advice for my stories.
Lastly, and most certainly not the least, I have been incredibly fortunate to have a rather remarkable group of author and publisher friends online who have beta-read my work with honest feedback, shown me submissions opportunities, encouraged me to write and submit, and given me excellent advice not only for writing but for life as well. They include, and I apologize in advance if I fail to mention someone I should, authors such as Steve Carr, Shawn Klimek, David Bowmore, Bruce Rowe, Mark Kuglin, Patt O’Neil, Mehreen Ahmed, Pavla Chandler, Aditya Deshmukh, Nerisha Kemraj, Ximena Escobar, Kelli J Gavin, Arabella Davis, and Dawn DeBraal, and publishers/editors Grant Hudson, Dean Kershaw, Zoey Xolton, Madeline L. Stout, and Stacey Morrighan McIntosh.
How does life influence your writing and vice versa?
In every way possible, I imagine. For most of my life, reading fantasy stories has been a way of escape, and now I write them myself, more often than not, for the very same reason. Yet no matter how fantastic a landscape I portray or how outlandish my characters, the essence of my own personal experiences permeates all of my writing. My characters, therefore, and much like I do myself, will generally hate racism and discrimination in any form with a vengeance, and they’ll tend to be quiet and introverted, with only a small group of close friends. They will have experienced loss and adversity, will enjoy books and food and travel, music and solitude, and the all the simple pleasures of life.
Simplicity is perhaps the greatest lesson taught to me by the art and practice of writing. Too often, we complicate our lives beyond reason by chasing after material and financial gain at the cost of all that is good and pure in our time on Earth.
What do you love most about your creativity?
The ability to bring to life characters and things and places, and entire worlds which I can visit and explore at leisure. To be able to have conversations with people I would never actually meet, to give them lives and loves, experiences and friendships. To dream of a world which has never been and might never come to be but still be able to envision and set stories within, and then to share them with the world that is.
I love how my creativity means I am never, ever bored and can comfortably be alone for days, even weeks on end if necessary. I enjoy discovering potential stories when I’m out at a restaurant, mall or park, and can create characters of the people I see and meet. More recently, since I have taken up drawing, there is the additional joy of studying light and shadows, form and shape and perspective, and then to try and apply all of it to a blank canvas.
Most importantly perhaps, and I know all authors crave an audience, but I absolutely love when someone tells me they enjoyed reading one of my stories. It is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I believe, when your work is the source of joy for another.
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Author Extra: Write a 50-word story right here, right now!
Brynhildr withdrew her sword from the fallen warrior’s chest, swayed, and collapsed herself. Slowly, the dark descended, and she felt herself ascending. Strong arms around her. A gentle caress. The weight, the pain, the fear. All of it, gone.
She opened her eyes, and with a smile walked into Valhalla.
Author Extra Extra: Art Gallery
“No one is my enemy.”
“Sure, Hank, no one is your enemy. We know. But let’s keep our tazers at the ready just in case, okay, my friend?” Waltraud snagged the book from Hank and stuffed it in the front of her shirt, bumping his tazer up with her own. “Why does your book smell like puke? It’s overwhelming my own fetid swamp in there.”
“It’s regurgitating the hate that surrounds–“
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Sorry I asked.” Shoulder to shoulder, they strode stealthily through the starship’s upper deck, three starkiller robots on their heels like big dumb dogs with 4317s holding ammo that detonated on contact. When one hit a human head, it was a fireworks of organic material. Hitting a robot endangered them all. Sometimes the difference wasn’t obvious. The starkillers were programmed to follow the instructions of Waltraud alone.
When she turned the corner and her head disappeared from a blaster ray, the starkillers turned to Hank, who said, “No one is my enemy.” They fired.
In this second book of the series, Xanthe reluctantly succumbs again to time travel, this time to save her friend Samuel. A copper chocolate pot takes her to a 17th century chocolate house, run by a mysterious woman who seems to know all about her and desires to protect her. In this book, Xanthe learns more about her place in the time traveling world, receiving tools to learn how better to control her journeys. I received this wonderful story from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. This publisher informed NetGalley readers upfront that the first book was the beginning of a series, which I don’t normally read, but the premise sounded too fun to pass up, and this second book is also labeled part of a series. Kudos to St. Martin’s Press for their forthrightness. A big thank you to Paula Brackston for introducing Dear Readers to chocolate houses, where you got a steaming cup of creamy, homemade on the spot hot chocolate, so much better than beer.
Zadie crushes on her best friend, the hero of the village, who has saved more than one person from the labyrinth that borders her village, a labyrinth full of booby traps and deadly creatures, including a boogeyman named Dex. When her friend disappears into the labyrinth and becomes history to the village, Zadie is the only one willing to risk the labyrinth to rescue him. Tate spins Dear Reader’s head with unlikely allies, exploding expectations, and astonishing revelations. YA fantasy fans will add this author to their list of favorites. I received this wonderful story from Flux through NetGalley.
Tati, Ana, Tatyana, and Tanya are the same girl, whose DNA was split to create them in multiverses by their father. This story had such potential, but the characters could have been more clearly differentiated from the beginning, the adoptive parents more credible (wealthy hippies?), and the ending less rushed to wrap it all up. Having said that, this is a unique perspective and Berla a good storyteller despite the flaws in execution. This book requires a good imagination and concentration. I received a digital copy from the publisher Flux through NetGalley.
Pop star Moira takes advantage of the frenzy of another flu epidemic to escape her controlling father and reinvent herself as an everyday working girl about to get married. Her wedding planner Krista somehow gets hooked into babysitting Sunny, the daughter of Moira’s work colleague Rob. When Sunny goes missing, Moira and Krista follow Rob into the wastelands, through communes, and around police cordons to find her, Rob knowing that he must confess the truth about Sunny’s mother. Chen builds a credible post-apocalyptic world with a divided US population of those who continue to follow laws in hopes of normalization and those who no longer believe in them after the global flu pandemic. His characters are unique and interesting if not necessarily endearing, and even secondary characters (including the fiancee and his family) maintain their integrity and presence. Dear Readers who love character-driven sci-fi will appreciate Chen’s style. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this story by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley.
Edward surprises Kara with the bicycling-around-the-world trip she’s been planning for years, failing to inform her that it’s a flight response from being let go from his position and blacklisted in the financial sector. On the US leg of the tour, Edward is offered a job by a host, who insists on an earlier starting time than Kara’s expected two years, forcing Edward to speed up their trip without explanation. In alternate chapters, Italian Alessio and Japanese Hirosama have traveled to the present from earlier centuries and are connected to Kara, as are the Native American and French-Canadian Edward and Kara came across in the American Midwest. Alessio works for Hirosama in Florence as Edward rushes Kara through Europe. In Florence, things reach a breaking point when Kara’s life is endangered and Edward must make a life-changing decision. Walsh portrays well a marriage unraveling from Edward’s hidden agenda, and the confusion wrought by a supernatural experience. While the paranormal aspect brings intriguing elements, it’s superfluous, as Edward’s subterfuge provides a sufficient story arc, and those elements are not explored. However, they could make for an interesting series, with sequels going deeper into the stories of Allessio, Hirosama, the French-Canadian, and the Native American. Dear reader could then find out what happened to the Native American, who was but a footnote in this tale. I received a digital copy of this fascinating story by the publisher Snoke Valley Books through a Goodreads giveaway.
Starting over, Xanthe and her mother Flora purchase an antique store in a small town, where Xanthe’s extra-sensory connections to antiques impel her into a time travel mystery to rescue a young woman in the 17th century to save her mother’s life. Details of time travel are cleverly meted out through Xanthe’s discoveries and conclusions, increasing tension by placing credible limitations on Xanthe’s experiences. Urged on (and threatened) by the ghost of the young woman’s mother, Xanthe makes difficult decisions with every move, resolving impossible conflicts with verve and panache, even sacrificing romance for her mother, which is as it should be. Repeated references to the injustice in her own history could have been more subtle. The ghost mother could have been developed a bit more. The damsel in distress was a lovely vision of mystery even after the reader meets her in person. That she was rescued by a woman is a brilliant move on the author’s part. Readers who love time travel and / or female antagonists who save the day will appreciate this story. I received this wonderful story from the publisher through #NetGalley.