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.
In the not too distant future, at a Japanese high school, teenage android Shinobu purchases the trending drug Spacix. It’s news to the principal that androids can take drugs, downloading a program that simulates the drugs’s effects, including the side effects, which can be devastating for Shinobu and other adolescent androids, as the real life drug has been for human teens.
Barr creates a credible world of humans and androids co-existing, with all the messiness of human emotions and scientists with god complexes. Third in the Nihon cyberpunk series, this tale continues with the concept of programming robots with emotions, going a step further in the creation of realistic humanoids with upgrades to mimic growth to fulfill the dream of parenthood for infertile couples. Characters are complex and situations challenging as a teen does the stupid things that teens do, only in a—brilliantly created—world with constantly shifting lines determining what is digital and what is human.
Keep an eye out on laelbraday.com for a review of the next story in the Nihon cyberpunk series.
Sheriff Holston wants to go outside—outside of the underground silo system where people migrated after the world became toxic for humans. His wife went outside three years ago, after winning the lottery to become pregnant and failing to do so. Maybe her decision was based on digital records she discovered of the founders’ secret. In any case, Holston prepares himself to go outside the silo.
Howey depicts dystopia in a brutally honest way, exposing the deepest, darkest emotions of humans trapped like the animals they used to place in cages, with pragmatic regulations culminating in inevitable population control methods. Holston’s inner thoughts once he reaches the outside zig and zag, his emotions sliding low and soaring high, based on his observations and conclusions about why the people leaving always clean the cameras that let the people inside observe the devastated world.
There’s no mention in the story of what apocalyptic event sent them underground, or the infrastructure of the silo system, but only hints of hierarchy (mayor, sheriff, etc.) and attempts to limit reproduction through an annual lottery. Perhaps these are addressed in the following books of the series. This first one is free on Amazon for Kindle.
Science fiction and horror writer Brian Barr was my first writer Facebook friend. He sent me a friend request after reading my story in Storyteller, an online literary magazine that has accepted much of his work, and he invited me to follow Dark Chapter Press, who held contests that I entered. I didn’t win any of the contests, but I was welcomed into a supportive group of creatives, several of whom are also now Facebook friends. Brian’s friendliness and positivity launched me fully into an online writerly mindset, and now I’m in several writers’ groups on multiple social media. He inspires fellow writers online by being himself, with his personality shining forth gloriously. He also happens to be a brilliant storyteller. Check out the links, like this one The Head: Book 1 of the 3 H’s Trilogy, to his work and collaborative projects, such as Empress with Chuck Amadori, throughout this blog! Here’s his Amazon Author Page.
All writers must find a sustainable writing process of their own, learning from others for enlightenment and guidance. Brian Barr’s is straightforward, “I type nearly everything, though I may jot notes from time to time as ideas come to me throughout the day. I basically sit down and type in documents, then revise when I’m done and a little as I go along. I’m pretty free-flowing when it comes to writing, and though I have ideas that are planned and notes I reserve for my stories, I’m not a huge outliner or anything like that. So my writing approach is not rigid and I mostly like to have fun and enjoy what I’m writing. If my heart isn’t in it, then I let it go. I like to get invested in what I’m creating.”
He’s open in his social media use, mixing professional and personal on his Facebook account. He has professional sites for readers: www.facebook.com/brianbarrbooksdotcom and www.brianbarrbooks.com. He says, “I use social media to interact with other writers and readers. A few I know IRl. There are my local friends and a few I’ve grown up with. Most of the people I’ve met on social media are either creators or supporters of books and comics that I haven’t met in person. I also use social media to promote my work and let people know about my books. It’s a way that I can keep tabs on my favorite authors and buy their works as well. That’s the main thing I use it for. There are a lot of Facebook groups that have been supportive from Colors in Darkness to Grimdark Readers and Writers. The two groups I mentioned are my favorite groups at the moment. There is also Queer Sci Fi, which has done a lot to promote Carolina Daemonic [Brian’s dystopian alternative timeline fiction published by J. Ellington Ashton), and various horror groups that have allowed me to share my horror work.”
Independent and ambitious, Brian explains his working style, “I’ve done a few writing workshops here and there, but they’re not my thing. Whenever I’m at one, I feel I could be at home writing, or that it’s time I could use to do other things, like walking, going somewhere, visiting friends, etc. So writing is a very solitary and personal, intimate experience for me. I feel like people at writer’s workshops can be helpful, but it can also become a way that other people tell you how to write to the point that you lose your own voice, so on a personal level, it’s been a balancing act for me to avoid those groups and do my own thing. The last time I joined a writer’s group, I acted on someone else’s advice, and I’ve been learning to respect people’s opinions, but do what’s right for me. I always felt restricted in groups when it comes to my creativity, like it would make me waste time on unneeded rewrites to please other people instead of pleasing myself and whoever would like the stories as I genuinely write them, so I’m solitary when it comes to writing stories.”
When asked his preference for self-publishing, he states, “I publish with presses along with self-publishing, so I don’t do self-publishing exclusively. I have books published by presses. With self-publishing, I can hire my own editors and cover artists, then release work when I choose. So I like the independence more. I guess that’s also why I’m not a big proponent of writing groups and stuff like that. I like to see people create on their own and put their own experiences and individuality into their own work. I’m self publishing the next books though. They were accepted for publishing, but they wanted me to use in-house artists. I have a certain way I want all my covers to look now, and they use stock photos, so I pulled them. My friends I usually commission are doing the covers and editing. Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa are my favorite artists. For the first edition of Carolina Daemonic, a few people told me they saw the photo in other places. I want to have original art for all my books. I appreciate the publisher for accepting my work, but as I’ve been self publishing, I found I like it more. I get all the royalties and like the people I work with. It’s just been better for me.”
A highly creative individual, Brian is also a musician in a band called Pig Head Dog. Punk fans can listen to samples and follow the band on www.reverbnation.com/pigheaddog2 and www.facebook.com/pigheaddog. When asked about a connection between his band and writing, he tells me, “Not at this time. Music for now is a collaboration between friends, and I’m thankful to my friends for bringing me into my band. It’s a fun experience for all of us. I’ve written my own songs before in other projects, and I do come up with basslines for songs in this current band, but I’m not the singer or songwriter for the band I’m currently in. Bubbs Ruebella is the singer and songwriter of Pig Head Dog, and the band is his creation. I’m the newest member, and also pretty new to bass playing, which is what I do in the band. We practice on Thursday nights, or Saturdays. We’ll usually meet for 2-3 hours and work on either a set list or, most often, the newer songs we need to get down. I think we’re all fast learners and good collaborators, so after we get a song down, it’s drilled in our memory. Other than our weekly schedule, we do shows from time to time. I’ve only been playing bass for less than a year, so it’s all pretty new to me.”
With optimism, Brian says he’s doing, “pretty good. I’ve just been focused on my creative projects and freelance writing, recharging for the fall, and getting rested. I’ve been reading a lot, since I wrote so much this summer, though I’m still working on stories as well. For fun, he likes to, “write, make music, and travel. I like to watch movies, read books, and I like anything artistic or creative. So I like to look at art, interact with artists, things of that nature. I also like learning, and I study Japanese. I’ve always had a strong interest in Japanese culture, since I grew up in Hawaii, and there were a lot of Asian influences there.”
I haven’t met Brian Barr in person, but online, he’s a super nice guy, positive, and always supportive of other writers and artists. Follow him on his Facebook page www.facebook.com/brianbarrbooksdotcom and website www.brianbarrbooks.com. Feel free to ask him questions about his work, any upcoming projects, or his professional life. His illustrators, Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa, are also open for commission, so please do inquire if you need cover art. Even if you’re not hooked on his genres, I highly recommend reading Brian Barr’s work, as it transcends those genres due to his storytelling talent.