Tag Archives: innovative

The Race Against Time

I’ve talked about beta readers before, and how vital they are for Indie writers. Well, Chris James, author of The Race Against Time, has been one of mine for a very long time. And I’ve been one of his since Repulse, the novel that started his climb to fame.

I am now very proud to announce that the latest novel in the story arc, The Race Against Time, is not only published, it’s hit the top of the best seller lists in the UK:

You can read Chris’ post about The Race here, and garden lovers can also check out some truly gorgeous photos of tulips (grown by Mrs James). 🙂

As someone who loves good science fiction, I can tell you that it was hard to focus on the technicalities of The Race because I kept wanting to read what happened next. That’s one of the pitfalls of beta reading when you grow to love the characters, which I do.

The Repulse Chronicles encompass one of the most innovative, immersive and, dare I say it, topical story arcs in modern science fiction. Chris James lives in Poland with his wife and family, and the story is about the invasion of Europe in the future. I say no more.

Congratulations to Chris for a job very well done. 😀


#Apple and climate change

apple logo “Apple announced Thursday that its China operations are now 100 percent powered by renewable energy, leaving it carbon neutral in the country. That brings them in line with its U.S. operations, which are likewise run off 100 percent renewable energy.

Worldwide, Apple says its operations are now 87 percent green…”

Read the rest of this Venturebeat article here:


I don’t particularly like Apple the company, or any of the Apple products. I don’t even like iTunes very much. But. I. Do. Like.Their. Position. On. Climate. Change.

I also admire the fact that one of the biggest, most popular companies in the world is putting its money where it’s mouth is. Now if only governments worldwide could do the same.



p.s. Would you believe this is my 700th post? I know. Me neither.

SFWA – let’s shrug off the straitjackets, gentlemen!

angrySFWA stands for Science Fiction Writers of America, and the organization is one of the most prestigious in science fiction. Apparently it’s also a boyz-own club where the odd female writer may be tolerated, but never truly welcomed.

As an Indie, I’ve never taken much notice of the SFWA because Indies aren’t welcome either. That’s one reason I had no idea of the $hit storm brewing over at the SFWA until I read this article on the Passive Voice this morning. Once I’d read the excerpt, I followed the link to the original article, which you can find here.

Now I’m not a rabid feminist, but some of my all time favourite science fiction writers are women. Ursula K. LeGuin opened my eyes to the wonder of ‘social’ science fiction. Margaret Atwood blew me away with The Handmaid’s Tale, C.J. Cherryh introduced me to cloning, and Mary Robinette Kowal finally made me see the beauty of short stories.

Just for the record, Mary Robinette Kowal won a Hugo award for her short story ‘For Want of a Nail’, and you can read my review here.

So you can see that I have enormous respect for Mary Robinette Kowal, which made her treatment by the SFWA all the more shocking.

Science fiction writers used to be avant guard. They used to push the boundaries. In some ways, breaking out of mental straitjackets used to be the raison d’etre of science fiction. My, how things can change in just a few decades.

To be honest, I haven’t read much traditionally published science fiction in the last two years. Not because of any political motivation, but because the science fiction that truly excited me was being written and published by Indies. Social science fiction, cross-genre science fiction, political science fiction, philosophical science fiction, literary science fiction. All from Indies.

I did try reading one of the novels recommended by John Scalzi on his blog, but I couldn’t finish it. The story was well written, in terms of craft, but the plot bored me to tears – a sort of cross between James Bond and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But I digress.

Until this morning, I believed this renaissance of science fiction was due to Indies being able to write what they wanted to write, instead of having to conform to the arbitrary standards imposed by traditional publishers. However it appears the straitjacket was also being tightened by the SFWA old guard. Little wonder then that the truly innovative writing is coming from Indies who don’t ‘belong’.

I think it’s time we had a new organization, one that is open to writers of any gender, race or publishing platform. We could call it the IISF – International Indies of Science Fiction. Okay, that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but I’m pantsting it here.

What do you think? Are you sick of the same old, same old? Are you sick of fanciful space battles and ‘hard’ tech that is just one step removed from a sorceror’s wand? Or do you think I’m biased in favour of Indies because I am one?

Don’t let my rant put you off. I’m open to different points of view, especially if they come with recommendations for truly innovative, traditionally published novels. So have your say, I promise not to bite. 😉



The Pirate Captain’s Daughter – by Yoon Ha Lee

I was looking at sites that publish short stories when I stumbled across this gem written by a Korean-American lady by the name of Yoon Ha Lee. YHL lives in Texas, and has become one of my new, favourite authors! Read on :


‘The pirate captain’s daughter had no name, although her mother’s land-born lovers, male and female, sometimes amused themselves thinking of names for her. Such strong hands, such a lithe frame, one might say, and suggest a name from an island known for its wrestlers. Another might admire the way her straight, dark hair was pulled back by pins with dragonflies on them, and name her after summer nights.

Once, a small woman, dark-skinned and improbably delicate, looked at her for an unnerving moment before suggesting that she be named after a certain type of two-handed sword that had not been forged for over three centuries. “You’ll grow tall like your mother,” she had said, “and like a fine sword you’ll wear leather stitched with bright thread.” The pirate’s daughter had liked that best of all.

But pirates upon the Unwritten Sea had traditions as surely as did their prey. No one traveled the Unwritten Sea save by poetry. For the little fisher-boats that never ventured far from shore, a scrap of chant handed down from parent to child might suffice. For the dhows and junks that ventured into the sea’s storms, cobwebbing the paths of trade between continents, more sophisticated poetry was required: epics in hexameter, verses structured around jagged caesuras; elegantly poised three-line poems with the placement of alliterating syllables strictly dictated. A poem would guide a ship only so far ahead and no farther, and one had to use a fitting poem for the weather, the currents, the tides, the color of light on the foam and the smell of the wind.

Lesser pirates might content themselves with smaller commodities: chests packed tight with baroque pearls and circlets of wire, rutilated quartz, and the bones of tiny birds, all cushioned with silk cut from the coats of hanged aristocrats; spices named after extinct animals, but no less potent for all that; oils pressed from the fruit of trees planted during meteor showers and comets’ passing.

Pirates of the highest tier, the ones whose names and exploits were discussed avidly even in inland cities like those of conquering generals and master calligraphers, raided poetry itself. To understand her trade, a pirate must be a poet herself, and could not take a name until she had scribed a poem in the language of her sea-yearning soul.

And so the pirate’s daughter had a problem. She didn’t want to leave the Unwritten Sea. Her mother had birthed her on this very ship, the Improbable Dragon, on a night when dragons blotted out the five moons with their battling, and their blood mottled the sea the color of bronze and copper. The sea’s dark waters had baptized her, staining the birthmark on her left forearm dark within dark, like a dragon-whelp curled within its storm-shell…

Read more…

Meeka’s comment :

Not only is this an innovative, out-of-left-field kind of story, but the very prose in which it is written evokes the poetry at its core.

I’m not drawn to poetry, or literary work  for its own sake, I just love beauty in all its forms, and this short story is beautiful. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Patience conquers all

I can’t remember where or when I first came across the saying ‘love conquers all’ but I know the expectation has stalked me for most of my life. I expected that tiny kitten to make a miraculous recovery. It didn’t. I expected my parents would let me keep that sad eyed puppy. They didn’t. I expected to meet the man of my dreams by age 22 and to have the beginnings of a family by at least 24. I didn’t and I didn’t.  I did fall fall in love a number of times and I even experienced the ‘Grand Passion’ a couple of times but it seemed that the more I loved the less likely it was that the object of my affections would love me back.

In my 30’s I did finally meet a gorgeous, clever man who said yes when I jokingly asked him to marry me and we did have one amazing daughter but the ‘death us do part’ clause must have been lost in translation because it became  ‘divorce us do part’ some years later. So I’m no longer convinced that love does conquer all, especially when I see so much unnecessary hatred in the world. To be honest I’m not quite sure what would constitute necessary hatred but I know that hatred of race or religion or sexual orientation is a hate we can do without.

Yet if love is not transforming the world then what’s left? Do we just shrug and throw up our hands in despair?

Not on your nelly! With the wisdom of advanced middle age I’m here to tell you that the one, true, indomitable force in the world is… ta dah… patience! And maybe a soupçon of persistence. [soupçon : just a touch, an itty bitty bit, a hint, a whisper…]

Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Yes, that’s the one – slow, steady tortoise wins the race while loud, flashy hare snoozes just before the finish line. In many ways we are all wabbits; we all want to get there fast, we want to make it happen now, right this instant or at least within the next five minutes and when we take longer than expected we sulk and have a snooze.

The modern media doesn’t help. Our expectations are always being fueled by the latest wonderkind, the newest overnight sensation, all of whom apparently just skipped their way towards superstardom or mega riches without putting a curl out of place. That is the ideal of success. If you have to work for it or if it takes 20 years to make it big then somehow the achievement is devalued and it definitely isn’t sexy. And we all want sexy, right?

Well, we may all want sexy but the biggest achievements of all owe more to plodding than to sprinting. Did someone wave a magic wand to make the Berlin Wall tumble down? Nope, it took time and patience and persistence. Did Nelson Mandela rid South Africa of Apartheid by machine gunning all the white politicians? Nope, apartheid died a little bit at a time thanks to the patience and persistence of a lot of people whose names will never be known. In 50 years time I hope the same will be said of climate change – that a lot of nameless people working together finally achieved the goal that governments could not.

Plodding people – that is what gets the job done. Plodding and patience and persistence. And those three P’s are just as powerful in the lives of individuals as they are in the life of the global community. Yes there are instances of mad, amazing good luck that seem to come out of nowhere but if you look closely enough you’ll see the good luck is just the tip of ye olde iceberg. Luck can’t work in a vacuum; it has to have something to work on and 99 times out of 100 that something was created by years of patience effort.

Don’t believe me? Well how about the case of my friend Alex Laybourne? Alex is an indie writer who has been juggling a day job, a family he adores and the passion to write.  For years. Alex did all the ‘right things’ in terms of marketing but the success he dreamt about stayed illusive. Until just about a week ago when he was offered a two book contract by a publisher! The offer seemed to come out of the blue but I know that it would never have happened if Alex had not put so much effort into his writing and his marketing. Nonetheless I suspect that in the not too distant future Alex is going to become one of those overnight successes we spoke about earlier. But you and I will know that he worked his butt off before lady luck finally smiled on him. He was patient and he was persistent and he made it over the finish line.

I’m sure that if you scratch below the surface [yes Daud I know, I’m using up my quota of cliches very quickly but it’s in a good cause!] you will find a million hard-working overnight successes like Alex. They all earned their good fortune through patience and persistence and so will you. By ‘you’ I mean all the other wonderful indie authors out there. I already know some of you and I’m finding more and more every day. You are funny, brilliant, quirky people who write funny, brilliant and innovative stories. Then you polish those stories until they shine. That takes time and effort and dedication [not to mention a pretty strong grasp of the English language].  And after that you work even harder just to be seen.

To all of you hard-working, dedicated writers I say – be patient! Lady luck may be a bit fickle at the moment but you have all the time in the world. There is no use-by date for creativity. So what if you have to gum your food? So what if you get arthritis in your fingers? Voice recognition software is coming along in leaps and bounds so by the time you can’t type any more you’ll be able to throw away your keyboards and just dictate your stories!  [Note : false teeth might make dictation a bit easier, just a thought].

By now I hope that I have convinced everyone of the power of patience. If any of you still have doubts please contact me after the lecture…um I mean the pep talk… and I’ll box your ears for being slow on the uptake 😉

p.s. I’m open to donations of wine [shiraz or merlot], chocolates [dark only] and meals-on-wheels at any time. Sadly I can’t accept nuts any more, they’re just a bit too hard to chew.

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