Category: sci-fi


Guest Post Grant Price

Hi all, this is the first post in a while I’ve gotten to host that focuses in on the getting published side of things. I found it interesting and hope you all do too. Enjoy!

The new end is the new beginning

“Too bleak. Pass.” When I started querying agents for By the Feet of Men, my dystopian cli-fi novel, this was the response I received from three different people within the first week. Okay, I thought, it just wasn’t for them. No need to worry. But it wasn’t until the fourth agent emailed me with feedback after requesting the full manuscript that I realised: I was going to have to rewrite the ending. Because it was indeed too bleak. As the agent said, it gave the reader nothing to cling on to, offered them little reward after spending 300+ pages with the characters they had become invested in, and effectively stated that the world I’d created was entirely devoid of hope. I perhaps should have realised that this is not the kind of message—especially in this day and age—anybody wants to walk away with.

The problem was that I was done with the dystopian world I’d created. I was exhausted after having spent two years sketching and erasing and colouring and shading. I didn’t want to go back in there, especially after my definitive (and naïve) gesture of christening the file “Draft 6_final”. Yes, I could have ignored the advice and continued to query. I could’ve taken heart from the stories of writers like Heller, Plath or Vonnegut who ploughed on in the face of rejection and refused to bow to the pressure of rewrites. But once a professional who looks at hundreds of manuscripts a month has taken the time to point out exactly where the flaws are in your story, you’d have to be pretty confident or (more likely) foolish to keep going down that same road. Artistic vision is great and all, but it’s better when other people get to experience your vision, too.

In the end, I thanked the agent, hid myself away and, even though I never wanted to look at it again, reopened the manuscript. Perhaps most surprisingly for me, it didn’t actually take long for a natural conclusion to appear. By the time I was finished, I had ended up adding three new chapters. They were good. They worked. They held up under the weight of the rest of the novel. The next time I submitted it, I received the following feedback: “strong ending with potential for a sequel”. That feedback happened to come from my future publisher. I signed the contract a week later. My new ending signalled the beginning of my career as an actual novelist.

With this in mind, here are my four tips for rewriting the ending of your work-in-progress even though you’ve sworn you’re absolutely, positively done.

 

  1. Listen to the advice you were given.

I touched on this above already, but it bears repeating: never be so unrelenting in your quest for artistic purity that you don’t listen to the advice of those around you. There is a difference between believing in a message that you absolutely want to tell the world and a story with a flabby midsection that requires a nip and tuck. Try not to take it personally, either. If somebody has made the effort to give you feedback, they probably did it because they found something in there that they believe is worth salvaging. Save your indignance for when you sell the thing and then start getting advance reviews from people who take just one sentence to trash your novel. And your dreams. And your belief in the goodness of humanity.

 

  1. Find enough enthusiasm to get it done.

Yep, this one is easier said than done. Enthusiasm doesn’t come in a can (unlike energy, which does). If you’re looking at that icon on your desktop and dreading clicking on it, it’s worth taking the time to think about why you wanted to write the thing in the first place. What compelled you to spend months hammering at your keyboard? What was it that got you believing that it was a story people should read? Writing a novel is like any long-term relationship: sometimes you have to remember how things were at the start to fall in love with the object of your affection all over again. You’ll then be able to see how far you’ve come – and to understand that it would be a damn shame if you threw it all away now.

 

  1. Go somewhere completely different to write it.

This is linked to point number two in that if you need to kickstart the engine that gets your fingers dancing over the keyboard once more, a good idea is to leave your usual haunt and try tackling that rewrite somewhere entirely different. For me, it just so happened that I went to Thailand a week after I received the feedback from the agent. I ended up sitting in a glass studio in the middle of nowhere with no Internet and no distractions, and wrote those three new chapters in just over a week. All inertia was banished thanks to a simple change of scenery. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a different country altogether; it could just be a park or a coffee shop where the barista tells you to wait a few minutes before drinking your beverage so you can “really taste it”.

 

  1. Compromise, but not too much.

The last item on the list may be the most important. Yes, you should accept and listen to feedback, but ultimately your book is your baby and you (hopefully) know what’s best for it. In other words, these rewrites become a balancing act. On the one hand, you may have to compromise on your artistic vision a little bit; after all, there’s a reason your novel hasn’t been picked up yet, and a fresh pair of eyes is much more likely to spot a thread in the tapestry that’s the wrong shade of blue than you are using your colour-blind tunnel vision. On the other hand, not all feedback is equally valuable, and if the response calls for you to rip up half of your manuscript and forget the reason you were writing it in the first place, then it may be worth taking a step back and looking at what you can change for the better while retaining the soul of the piece. If, for example, somebody doesn’t think a character works and they outline exactly why they believe this and their reasoning rings true, then this is a good basis for a rewrite. If, on the other hand, somebody simply doesn’t like a character because of the way they speak or act, this isn’t necessarily an invitation for you to lobotomise that character or do away with them entirely. Ultimately, you’re the boss.

By the Feet of Men cover

Amazon Link

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Alright everyone! How’s your morning? Not started yet? Night not ended yet? Either works, both are fine, because here’s where I give you all the link to a fantastic giveaway courtesy of the folks at Berkley Publishing. You’ve got 24-hours from the start of today to midnight on the 28th to enter for a chance at a physical copy of  Kali Wallace’s up coming novel Salvation Day. I’m not sure what I’m expecting from this book, could be zombies in space, could be a horrifying man made disease, but I’m excited to find out. It’s worth taking a shot in any case, so here’s the link.

Salvation Day cover

They thought the ship would be their salvation.
 
Zahra knew every detail of the plan. House of Wisdom, a massive exploration vessel, had been abandoned by the government of Earth a decade earlier, when a deadly virus broke out and killed everyone on board in a matter of hours. But now it could belong to her people if they were bold enough to take it. All they needed to do was kidnap Jaswinder Bhattacharya—the sole survivor of the tragedy, and the last person whose genetic signature would allow entry to the spaceship.
 
But what Zahra and her crew could not know was what waited for them on the ship—a terrifying secret buried by the government. A threat to all of humanity that lay sleeping alongside the orbiting dead.
 
And then they woke it up.

I’m later than I wanted to be on this. No excuses there, I just didn’t get it done on time. That aside, this one is thanks to Entangled Teen. Here is A. M. Rose’s Breakout. Enjoy!

Breakout cover

Lezah doesn’t know what landed her in prison, or really much of anything else about herself. With six days left before her execution the only chance she has to find out is to escape. And her only chance of escaping requires relying on strangers, possibly dangerous ones, and her former school rival. Can she trust anyone long enough to get out or will they all fall prey to the prison’s formidable defenses?

A. M. Rose’s Breakout is a book that I bounced around on how I felt about it, especially early on in reading it. But once it hit its stride, it worked really well.

The start was a little rough, with what’s nearly a new world entirely in the form of a California that’s been separated from the rest of the US by earthquakes. Special standouts on that were the WALTERS or Walking Computers, essentially robots that are meant to have free will, and the SOULS that everyone is supposed to have that are ID and phone and personal entertainment all rolled into one. SOULS do everything from let their users keep in contact to changing their appearances pretty drastically to being the main way the government kept tabs on citizens. It was all fed to the reader pretty bluntly at the start, which was necessary to a degree but also felt incredibly clunky.

I had a bit of a similar issue when the male characters, Trip and Seph, were introduced.  It quickly became clear that Seph was our designated love interest, with his history with Lezah and his sad sad eyes and super competence. The build up to that felt like it took away from the immediacy of escaping the prison for a good bit. It felt like there were big neon signs telling me that this was going to be a huge part of the experience.

Here’s the thing though, both the rough bits from the start and Seph and Lezah’s whole thing, both worked out. The blunt early explanations felt weird because it was stuff that Lezah knew and wouldn’t have had much reason to explain to, essentially, herself but that smoothed out later once the characters were more in the action and things felt more focused. As to Lezah’s crushing on Seph? It wound up feeding character stuff for both of them as well as feeding in some bits of Lezah’s missing memories. The book hit a point in the action where the mystery and the full cast were more important than just those two characters, so it made the moments between Lezah and Seph feel more impactful. It wasn’t just the two of them and a world of card board cutouts.

This all said, the thing that made the book for me more than anything else was one of the antagonists. They were written in so well that I was genuinely caught off guard at the reveal. It was built in really well and makes me want to see how Rose handles other antagonists.

That’s about it. While I’m left wanting to see where things go for Lezah and company from the book’s ending on, it was still a satisfying ending that worked for the story. The things that didn’t work did well by the things I enjoyed. And, at the end of the day, I even wound up appreciating the romancey bits. So, Breakout earns a four out of five from me. I’m interested in seeing what A. M. Rose does in the future.

As ever, I really enjoy it when I get the chance to host a guest post from an author. Even more so when they’re interested in coming back later with another one. Damien’s previous guest post can be found here and, notably, Big Red has released just this week. Definitely worth checking out, links for that are down below. Enjoy!

A few years ago, I decided to become an app developer as a bit of a side project. I was already busy with looking after my two young children full-time – while working a part-time job – so that didn’t leave a lot of spare time. Despite the time constraints, I was driven.

More than anything, I wanted to grow this side-project from something that earned me some pocket money into something that could provide for myself and my family. One of the goals that spurred me on was the idea that once I achieved this, I could then focus my time on what I really wanted to do: write novels.

With the odds stacked against me, I landed several contracts and for a while, it really felt that my goals would come through. And then… everything fell apart.

Three projects crashed and burned in epic fashion. Months of hard work went up in flames, forcing me to re-evaluate my priorities. I spent an entire day soul-searching, really trying to peel back the layers and asking myself what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My thoughts drifted back to my list of goals and as I thought about those fantasies of becoming a writer, it struck me like a lightning bolt.

If I had all this time to focus on app development, wouldn’t that mean I had plenty of time to write too?

Without hesitation, I cut my losses and dug out a few pages of a story I had started two years previously. Based on a dream, this story followed a bunch of teenage cadets trapped in a vicious and brutal war while their country collapsed around them. With renewed determination, I picked up where I left off and had just over one hundred thousand words done within three months.

I spent another six weeks with edits and rewrites before I began submitting to agents and publishers. Within three months, it had been rejected upwards of thirty times. Unfazed, I decided to self-publish and after a surprisingly good start, book sales inevitably waned until they became practically non-existent.

I remember having another heart-to-heart with myself and asking if I really wanted to keep going with this. Unlike with app development, I had finally found something I was passionate about, so I dusted myself off and dived back in again.

Spurred on by another vivid dream, I set about writing what would become Big Red. Again, the standard rejection template emails came flooding through my inbox. Gritting my teeth, I prepared to self-publish again when something happened.

In a Twitter pitch-war, several different publishers liked my tweet about Big Red! Out of those, I got my first request for a full manuscript followed by an offer of a publishing deal. To this day, it still feels like a dream come true.

I wanted to share this because I’ve failed at a lot of things in my life. It can be painful and raw, but I’m a firm believer in taking the positive (as much as possible) out of everything that happens in life. If I hadn’t failed with my app development venture, I would have missed knowing this feeling. I’m doing something I’m passionate about and watching a story I crafted come to life in book-form. It’s amazing!

Whatever it is that you want to do; whatever your passion is, go for it. Yes, it will be hard and there’ll be plenty of times when you’ll want to give up but push yourself to keep going. Failure is good – it’s not taking action on your dreams that is the real enemy.

Big Red cover

Big Red

By Damien Larkin

We have always been here…

Traumatized by the effects of Compression travel, soldier Darren Loughlin holds the key to the fate of Earth’s Martian colonies. With his Battalion decimated, his fractured memory holds the only clues to the colony-wide communications blackout.

With time running out, Darren pieces together his year-long tour of duty with the Mars Occupation Force. Stationed in the Nazi-founded New Berlin colony, ruled by the brutal MARSCORP, he recounts his part in the vicious, genocidal war against the hostile alien natives and all who question Terran supremacy.

But as his memories return, Darren suspects he is at the centre of a plot spanning forty years. He has one last mission to carry out. And his alien enemies may be more human than he is…

https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/

Damien Larkin is a part-time Planning Analyst and a full-time stay-at-home father of two young children. He enjoys turning terrifying nightmares into novels and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland.

Links:
Barnes & Noble  Kobo  Amazon ITunes

Late posting this, yesterday didn’t really happen. The “And Another Thing” is something I’ve been wanting to write something for for a while and I’ve been meaning to go back and talk about this since I realized it, but haven’t really taken the time to put it to paper as it were. So now seemed like a great time to get this done. This is sort of touching on an older review, you can find that here. I might make this a semi-regular thing for books that I couldn’t get to everything reasonably or series after I’ve already reviewed the books that make them up. It could be a lot of fun, this one was at least.

So, one of my big issues with Free Chocolate was pacing and information related. There would be long stretches of nothing new, of repetition, of the reader being reminded that Bo is in trouble because of the Zamite’s usually eating stowaways or of the corporate assassin calling her to remind her that he’s going to kill her family if she doesn’t get the cacao beans back and provably destroy them. Of how she doesn’t know as much about her boyfriend as she thought.

It hit me some time later.

Each chapter is an episode of a soap opera.

Each chapter.

And I missed that on my first go round with the book.

This is a thing that could have been brilliant. But I feel like it’s let down by the novel format and, as a result, becomes a letdown of a read.

One of the big things with soap operas is getting the viewer to come back every day. So, there’s a lot of characters and a lot of plot lines running constantly. Even if one plot line ends during an episode there’s still several more going and chances are that the ending of one will result in the start of another. It’s a constant cycle and characters are continually being introduced and developed and moved out of the story.

It’s a daily thing and needs to keep people coming back daily. But it’s also only a half an hour to an hour daily, so small amounts of all of this can be twined together and stretched out. But it loses something if you’re watching episodes back to back to back. Things fall a little flat because tension doesn’t work if it’s kept cranked up over a long amount of time. Plus, a lot of the repetition on a soap opera covers if you miss a day here and there.

Same thing with Free Chocolate. Since every chapter is an episode and soap operas require continual high tension it winds up being clunky. Plot lines and information are continually reintroduced. Characters are continually gone back over.

It feels like it could work really well over the course of a couple of months. Just like, post one chapter a day and have it go from there and I think the pacing would have worked a lot better.

So, I’m late getting this posted, but it is still technically Wednesday. I’ve written and rewritten this at least four times. I think this one is as close to something I’m happy with as this is going to get. This series was one that I really enjoyed and I’m hoping to see more from Roberts in the future. This one is thanks to Curiosity Quills Press, here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents You Believe Her cover

As part of the Inscrutable Machine Penny Akk, Bad Penny, has faced heroes and villains and threats from the very moons of Jupiter. She’s faced enemies turned friends and friends turned enemies. But when she was ready to face the thing she feared the most, telling her parents about being Bad Penny, she found herself trapped in a robot body by her own power. With her friends away and her parents believing the fake Penny her powers built instead of her, Penny will have to find new allies and pull off the biggest heist of her whole career. Bad Penny is going to have to steal her own life back. A super villain’s work is never done.

As would be expected of the last book in a series that I really enjoyed, I have thoughts on Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her. A number of them in fact. This is a book that was split between opening up the world it’s set in for later stories, giving the reader more on some of the side characters and how things work, and also tying up Penelope Akk’s story. That’s where I get a little bit frustrated.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her is the book it needs to be more than the book I would have hoped it would be. It’s the tie up novel. The place where Penny finally gets to shed Bad Penny for a chance to be a hero. But first she has to beat the most dangerous super villain she’s ever faced, herself. And yet, even with the stakes as high as they are for Penny, I found myself more interested in what was going on with Ampexia or Cassie or what was going on with the other Penny at the Akk household.

That’s actually something that I would have really liked to have seen with how far the other Penny takes things. How did Penny’s parents react to that? We see the Audit reject Bad Penny early on because she defaults to believing the flesh and blood Penny over robotic Bad Penny. Never mind that the Machine stubbornly sticks to Bad Penny. This drove me up the walls, because it feels like it should have been a bigger thing all around. Like, we get the letters from super villain camp that Penny writes to cope with what’s going on but I wanted to see more of the parents being worried of if they made the right choice. Which is an odd stand out, because we see her friends trying to split time between the Pennys.

But then there’s all the support Penny gets early on from, mostly new, side characters who deal with robots. She gets to team up with the mascot from her childhood favorite pizza place, Gerty Goat. Ampexia shows back up as a team mate and makes for some really enjoyable scenes of Penny getting to know  her and learning to take a chill between bouts of villainy.

There’s a lot of early on heist stuff, since Penny’s lost most of her gear. Between that and the bits with other characters that feel like they could have been expanded, kind of makes me wish that this had been split between two books. One with Penny adjusting to her robot body and gathering her allies and a second with the heists and the build up to the big fight with other Penny. It could make the expansion of characters and the whole robot deal feel like it had more room to breath while also allowing more space for Penny to deal with and question her current state of being. But, I also say that as someone who enjoyed the series and would really like to read more of it.

That’s really where I come down on this I think. It was an enjoyable book and it tied up the series exactly the way the series needed to be tied up for character stuff. But it also leaves room for more stories and showed a lot of characters who’s stories I’m really interested in reading. It’s the book that it needed to be, but that also leaves me wanting more from this setting. So, Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her gets a four out of five from me. I’m going to go find the prequel.

Guest Post: Damien Larkin

I meant to have this up yesterday but then time escaped me badly. Badly. I’ve actually been really excited for this one too, so it’s going to be fun to see what you all think. If you like what you read here, Big Red is available this coming May and you can pre-order it from the author’s website. Big thanks to Mr. Larkin and Dancing Lemur Press. Enjoy!

When I first started writing Big Red, I had the plot clearly worked out. I knew the exact story I wanted to tell. Like most plans, it didn’t work out the way I originally intended. New ideas formed, characters changed, even some of the pivotal scenes adapted to serve a newer story. The original idea involved the soldiers in Big Red being closer to super-human Rambo types. After thinking about it and drawing on my own experiences, I rewrote it from the perspective of an average person, with an ordinary, average life pulled into an extraordinary situation.

When I was seventeen, I joined the Irish Reserve Defence Forces which ranks as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Even today, I look back fondly at the camaraderie, life lessons and practical skills I learned. The one thing I remember more than anything though; the monotony.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Redoing foot and weapon drills on a daily basis was part of the role. Still, moving from a sudden burst of excitement (during simulated attacks on “enemy” positions in the Dublin/Wicklow mountains) to something mundane like map reading could wear out even the most enthusiastic of us.

As I rewrote Big Red, I found myself thinking more and more about those days. I wanted to capture what it was like being on the bottom rung, the lowest of the low. Set against the backdrop of a vicious war between the Mars Occupation Force, the human colonists and an aggressive indigenous alien species, the protagonist and the rest of the 2nd Battalion are mere observers at the start. Relegated to guard duty, they watch from the sidelines as the “real” soldiers do the fighting. Many are even grateful for the opportunity to sit the conflict out.

But as events unfold closer to home, average, normal everyday people have to make a choice. Will they rise to the occasion or run away from it?

I drew inspiration for Big Red from Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War. Both are excellent reads with some fascinating points, philosophies and outlooks. I enjoyed them both greatly, but rather than espousing an ideal or political message, I wanted to focus on how the lines between good and evil can very easily be blurred in wartime.

These average, ordinary people become products of their environment. They soak up the prejudices of their fellow soldiers against the colonists, in some cases viewing them as on par with the enemy. In their simulated training environments, they begin to not only learn how to kill their enemy effectively, they learn how to loathe and despise them too.

Without making any judgements, I let the protagonist and his friends tell this story. It was a unique opportunity to explore if doing good can cancel out an evil act and vice versa. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to share this story with (hopefully) plenty more to follow soon.

Big Red cover

Damien Larkin is a full-time stay-at-home father of two loud (but happy) young children. When not tinkering with apps as a side project, you can find him reading everything and anything to do with psychology, history and science fiction. He enjoys turning terrifying nightmares into novels and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland.

https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/

I’ve mentioned something that I’m super excited about a few times in the past couple of weeks. This is that. See, there were a number of books this year that I really enjoyed and really want to share with you all. So, three readers are going to win one of three books that I’ve either reviewed this year or that come from a series I’ve reviewed this year.

Cool, right? Let’s make it even more fun, all three books are going to be signed by the author. So, what are the books I’ve decided excited me the most this year, the books I am so ready to share with all of you?

Well, there’s the first book in a series I talked about a bunch of times back during the Fall Into Books challenge. K. C. Alexander’s Necrotech. I still want to talk about these books anytime I’m given the chance and probably will.

Necrotech cover

And, as much as I enjoy a good cyberpunk story, let’s add a ghost story to this list. Let’s talk about a hitchhiker who’s been wondering America’s roadways since she was killed, the girl in the green silk gown. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire, a book that left me hunting the sequel through a number of bookstores.

Sparrow Hill Road cover

Then let’s follow up the ghost story with a nice Saturday morning cosmic horror story. Those kids and their dog have been waiting an awfully long time to solve that last mystery, the one that split them up and left them broken. Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids. This is another one that I still want to talk more about, so look forward to that.

Meddling Kids cover

So, rules and whatnot. How can you get your hands on one of these awesome stories?

Sometime between now and when the giveaway closes at midnight central time on December 31st, you’ll need to follow this blog and then comment below.

As to what you should comment about, let’s make it thematic. The year is coming to a close, tell me about your favorite reads of the year. And, of course, which book you want or your order of preferences on which books you want.

You’ll also need to live in the continental US and be comfortable with sending me your mailing address after winners are announced. I’ll be using random.com to choose winners for the sake of fairness and that announcement is going to come January 1st by midnight.

Good luck!

Guest Post Hank Quense

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today from Hank Quense, author of the Zaftan Troubles series of sci-fi/fantasy novels. Today, he’s provided us a totally non-fictional interview courtesy of Margaret Hammerhead and the Faux News Network. Enjoy!

Contact_2Book-2_Confusion

 

 

 

Faux News Network Interviews Author Hank Quense

 

My name is Marcia Hammerhead and I’m the literary reporter for FNN.  Once again, my boss insists that I interview a scribbler of fantasy and science fiction stories. My boss KNOWS that I prefer epic poetry and literary works and that I despise genre fiction.  But, here I am about to interview Hank Quense who has penned yet another novel despite the lack of success of his previous works and his apparent lack of talent.  Mr Quense, tell us what trash you are about to unleash on the unsuspecting reading public.

Hank Quense: Hi Martha. Thank you for the warm welcome.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha.

HQ: My new series, Zaftan Troubles, consists of seven ebooks and describes what happens when an alien explorer ship discovers Gundarland, a world populated by humans and fantasy creatures.  The zaftans are a vicious race who believe treachery and assassination are social skills.

MH: Good heavens!  You mixed science fiction and fantasy together?  Have you no shame?

HQ:  The two genres work well together.

MH: What’s the point of writing such a mishmash?  Are you indecisive to the point you can’t chose a single genre?

HQ: The point is entertainment and satire.  And the mixing of genres was a conscious decision, Margaret.

MH: Martha, not Margaret. Tell us about the characters?

HQ: In the first four books, the main characters are MacDrakin, a dwarf miner and Leslie Higginbottom, a constable.  The two have a budding relationship that is torn apart about the appearance of the aliens and their explorer robots.  The government orders Higginbottom to protect the robots while MacDrakin declares war against the robots and the aliens.

The next three books occur many years later when the Gundies (as they’re called) confront the zaftans in outer space.  The two main characters are Sam, an android with an organic brain and Klatze, a young zaftan naval officer who is determined to succeed using her ability rather than murder.

MH: What!  How can you write this nonsense?  Do you do drugs?  Booze? it is not possible to come up with this stuff without using some sort of stimulants.

HQ: Sorry, Marcia. I don’t do that stuff.  My stories come from unstimulated brain.

MH: This has to be some sort of anti-genius.  It should be declared illegal.  I suppose the novel uses the obsolete technique called plots?

HQ: It sure does.  The series has a number of plots and subplots.

MH: Did it ever occur to you to write stories about normal, human people, the kind of stories that comprise true literature.

HQ: Nope.  Sounds too boring.

MH: You said this series has seven ebooks in it.  I hope that’s the end of it.  I shudder to think that still another of your books will test our sanity.

HQ: Right now, Martha, Im working on books 8 through 10 for the Zaftan Troubles.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha. The very thought of you continuing this rubbish is giving me a headache.  I can’t stand any more of this genre trash.

HQ: Thanks for the great interview, Martha.  Good-bye.

MH: It’s Marcia.  Roll the wrap-up music.  I need a drink.  Where’s my bottle of merlot?

BooksNJ2015-cropped

Author bio: Hank Quense writes humorous and satiric scifi and fantasy stories. He also writes about fiction writing and self-publishing. He has published 18 books and 50 short stories along with a few dozen articles. He often lectures on fiction writing and publishing and has a series of guides covering the basics on each subject.
He and his wife, Pat, usually vacation in another galaxy or parallel universe. They also time travel occasionally when Hank is searching for new story ideas. To learn more, visit http://strangeworldspublishing.com/wp/.
Hank recently published Books 1 and 2 of his 7-part satirical fantasy series, the Zaftan Troubles, about an advanced alien species who steal resources from other worlds for profit. They’re available on Amazon:
Book 1: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F8352QC/  and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F883MW9  and the rest of the series is scheduled to publish later this year.
You can see the video trailer here: https://youtu.be/NHMJ_XRzrtI

I had a hard time writing this one. It gets minorly spoilery, due in part to the official blurb itself . This one’s thanks to netGalley for providing me a copy for review. Here’s Sean Grigsby’s Daughters of Forgotten Light. Enjoy!

Daughters of Forgotten Light cover

Oubliette, prison city, population: forgotten. Unwanted. Worthless. The women society doesn’t want. It’s been Lena Horror’s home for the past ten years. A flimsy truce keeps everyone from killing each other. Keeps the gangs mostly in line. At least, until something unexpected arrives in the quarterly supply drop. Back on Earth, Senator Linda Dolfuse has been ordered to find an excuse to wipe the prisoners off of Oubliette to allow good, honest citizens of the United Continent of North America a chance at a better future away from the frozen Earth and its endless war. Seems like a smooth enough job until she sees something on the drone footage that shouldn’t be there, the baby she’d given up.

This is one of those books that I started reading ready to love it. The concept of a prison world ruled by motorcycle gangs where unwanted and misbehaving women are sent to be forgotten, that’s something that has a lot of potential. Unfortunately the writing just doesn’t stand up to the concept.  Similarly, the Earth side portions, where corrupt politicians live big while their constituents are often forced to sell their children to Oubliette or the massive unending war just to survive, could have been fascinating. That concept could have carried a book on its own if it had been done well. It just doesn’t. And then, of course, we have the mess with the baby.

The baby thing bothers me, in part because it could have been done so much better, but largely because it lands the book with a bunch of hardened prisoners who all want this helpless kid for what feels like no reason. Each gang is only allowed six members and, even with the treaty keeping outright murder from happening, none of them should be willing to give up one of those slots for something that’s such a handicap against the other two gangs. Of course this means that all three gang leaders want the kid, because reasons? I keep coming back to that. I don’t want to say that they all want the baby because women, but it feels an awful lot like that. The cannibals want her, the all black gang wants her, and Horror wants her. Horror wants the kid mind, not the Daughters as a whole. It also isn’t even like the baby was a secret test and the drone was sent to see how the prisoners would react to her, the drone came way later in the book and existed just long enough to force the two stories together.

The time line is super vague. Three months pass between our introductory supply drop and the one the drone shows up on. That’s three months for both Senator Dolfuse on Earth and the prisoners on Oubliette, with it being repeatedly mentioned that there is nothing to do on Oubliette except fighting or having sex. Three months where Horror and the Daughters of Forgotten Light seemingly do nothing except get their new member, Sarah, her motorcycle and her weapon. Then it’s like Horror remembers that the cannibals have that baby she wanted and she’d been itching to break the truce her mentor set up anyway, let’s go take the kid despite having not prepared for a fight at all.

The worst of this is, the three month gap was taken up with Senator Dolfuse’s adventures in ill defined guilt and getting the drone on the shipment. She’s probably the single character we spend the most time with, but she feels way less important than the others. The Earth bits would have probably served better as shorter segments that attempted less with the world building, as is, they just felt like they dragged on forever without showing anything for it. It could have been great to see Dolfuse checking in more actively with the Vice President, or having her interact with characters that are against shipping, showing her growing awareness and how she changes as a result. That could have been aces.

If we had seen any character development, that would have been great. Most of the women on Oubliette are terribly static, which isn’t helped by the vague timeline because there isn’t really anything for them to grow from. Horror we see being aggressive and murdery, but it feels empty because she’s just like that, either ready for violence or ignoring everything because baby. The new girl goes from being afraid of everything, including the other Daughters, to being jaded and nearly as violent as Horror in the space of something like three paragraphs. She gets what feels like way too much page space talking about how Oubliette has taught her not to trust anyone when we don’t see Oubliette teaching her not to trust. It doesn’t work, especially given that early on Sarah feels like she’s meant to be the reader’s view point into the workings of Oubliette, and we never really get that either.

Even leaving aside the character issues, the world building really isn’t there for me on this one either. There are so many things that feel like they need explanations that just get breezed by. Why are only men sent to the army? Why wasn’t an eye already being kept on Oubliette to make sure that they weren’t just dropping prisoners into an airless void? Why not provide something for the women on Oubliette to do with their lifetime of being stuck in the middle of nowhere? How can the UCNA afford to ship these women to space and fight this massive war, but then food is horribly scarce and the average citizen is in real trouble of needing to sell one of their kids to survive? It’s all very forced feeling, things need to happen so that the plot can exist, but they can’t be gone into deeply enough to feel solid because reasons. I really feels like the author was trying to fit two or three books worth of information and ideas into half a plot.

Daughters of Forgotten Light is a book that I really, really wanted to like. I was excited to start it despite the baby thing in the blurb. I mean, really, space motorcycle gangs and a plot from Earth to wipe them out, that falls right in my wheel house. It just didn’t have nearly enough substance to it, everything felt half done and under baked with a rush to the end that leaves neither a satisfying conclusion nor the possibility of a next time. There were a lot of cool ideas. But then they felt wasted when nothing came of them. I finished the book not caring if anything changed for the better, if anything changed at all. I feel like Sean Grigsby could be a really decent author with a couple more books under his belt and a better feel for character and flow. After this, I’m not likely to be there for it though. Daughters of Forgotten Light gets a one out of five.