February Round-up

 

What a month February has been –  a month of extremes of weather for one thing. I’m glad to escaped the worst of it here in steaming hot Brisbane, but feel for everyone who has suffered loss from bushfires or wildfires, the Sahara-dessert levels of heat south of the border or Antarctic cold of the polar vortex across the Pacific, from earthquakes, storms, drought and other disasters.

It’s been something of a deluge on the publishing scene for me in much more pleasant ways – frantic, crazy and fantastic -with four new books due for release in February-March, several events both online and in person, and two promotions.

New Releases

Shadow Crystals

Shadow Crystals – Book 4 in the Under the Mountain series

She will do anything to save her people.

Delvina, Zadeki and the delegation lead by Danel must seek answers from the haughty Vaane, but they find the Lonely Isles in turmoil. Will Delvina find the way to open the Gate in time to prevent her people from starving? Will she be reunited with her twin, Retza? And why are the Forest Folk so secretive? As tensions increase, Delvina must discern friend from foe and defeat the shadows in her own heart.

Join Delvina and her friends on their quest to save the Glittering Realm under the mountain.

Set in the world of Nardva, Shadow Crystals is the fourth and penultimate novella in the Under the Mountain series.

Beat the price rise. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon for February 21  release. Here.

 

If you haven’t started the series yet – no questions asked (: – you can pick up the first book in the series, Heart of the Mountain, for 99 USD (less than $2 AUD) (or as part of Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories or Limited Horizon).

Heart of the Mountain can be standalone, or it can lead into the next story if you want to experience more of Delvina, Retza and Zadeki’s world.  So, what is stopping you? Begin the adventure today.

Wondering about which order to read them in?

Heart of the Mountain 1 

Blood Crystal 2

Stone of the Sea 3

Shadow Crystals

Caverns of the Deep 5  (So close to finishing the first draft of this fifth and final book in the series. Looking at an April release.)

 

Gods of Clay

 

I can now reveal that a year ago my sci-fi short story,  ‘Maroon’s Sanctuary’ was accepted for an anthology – Gods of Clay Continue reading

My Spec-Fic Faves for 2018


2018 was a great year for reading. I smashed my Goodreads Reader’s Challenge goal and just scrapped to finishing the 2018 Popsugar Challenge. Once again this year, my reading included a selection from the classics, big names and several indie authors. While not all are 5 star reads, each of the books chosen for my 15 picks intrigued me and/or left me thinking about the characters, the plot or the world long after I’d put the book down.

 

What were my best spec-fic reads for 2018?

1. The Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead

This science-fantasy series by Stephen Lawhead consists of five book: The Skin Map, The Bone House, The Spirit Well, The Shadow Lamp, The Fatal Tree.   The series follows the adventures of 17th century Arthur Flinders-Petrie, present day Kit Livingston, his erstwhile girl friend Mina, and the villainous Lord Burleigh, as they each seek to explore the mysteries of ley travel between an expanding number of alternative earths.  Each transfer to an alternative world is at a different time as well as place – from 17th century London and Prague, to China, to both Middle Kingdom and early twentieth century Egypt, ancient Tuscany, the paleolithic, early twentieth century Jordan, or north American desert.  Like the Doctor and Riversong – people can met out of synch with each other which results in some interesting plot points. New characters are added along the way and the stakes grow more serious with each book until it encompasses the whole cosmos. And while the final book didn’t quite live up to the rest,  I enjoyed the complexity of the plot, the immersive and detailed nature of each setting, the interplay of the characters, the redemptive arc and transcendence in this brilliant series.

 

2. Children of the Furnace by Brin Murray

Children of the Furnace is a YA dystopia set in a world devastated by global warming, with only the polar regions suitable for human habitation. Will, brought up by his step-father in Sekkerland (Greenland) is sheltered from the realities of the world until he is discovered by the Revouts and sent to Ferule – a re-education camp for boys – as a hated Heater.  The book is narrated by both Will and Leah (a girl from the south) with strong world-building and characterisation. Though, at times I found the violence quite harrowing and was disappointed the trope of religious fanaticism, I really did like the originality of setting and that Will seeks another way than ‘the way of the strong’.   Here’s my full review.

 

3. Grounded: A Dragon’s Tale  by Gloria Piper

Grounded: A Dragon’s Tale is another book with an original setting that intrigued me.

The story inter-leaves the narrative from the dragon Many Colours (aka Rumplewing) in first person with sections from the Watchers (scientific observers) and the enigmatic Baaden in third person. Through Rumplewing, we are introduced to dragon society and to their terraformed planet with a multitude of different wildlife, including unicorns and griffons. Each dragon has a groombug bonded at hatching and cannot live without this lifelong smaller companion.  Piper interweaves both personal challenges of young Rumplewing and sixteen year old Hote (one of the Watchers) with grave threats to the existence of the dragons and to the wellbeing of the whole planet, culminating in an exciting showdown. Here is my review.

4. Ted Dekker’s  Eyes Wide Open & Hacker

Ted Dekker’s Outlaw series are modern spiritual allegories. Each book is loosely connected to the other but stand on their own merits.

I found Eyes Wide Open a gripping read. Christy Snow is trapped in a concrete hollow below the unfinished and supposably empty hospital and has just enough mobile battery to call her friend Austin for help. What follows is a mind-stretching psychological play where neither Christy or Austin knows what is illusion and what is fact, until the appearance of Outlaw.

In Hacker, Nyah Parkes is desperate to provide revolutionary brain-restoring therapy for her comatose mother. When she asks her friend Austin for the money, he suggest his experiments with hacking the mind (in order to cure his inoperable brain tumour) provide a better chance of saving her mom. Both Nyah and Austin push the limits, ripping through the envelope of normal reality to find a greater truth beyond the layers. Will they grasp it in time before her mother dies or Nyah’s past mistakes come to destroy them both?

I’ve yet to read the second in the series, Water Walker and the origin story, Outlaw, but both the books I have read were gripping psychological thrillers with action and thought-provoking scenarios that kept me turning the pages. My review of Hacker here.

 

5. Artemis by Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s second book Artemis (following The Martian) is set in the near future on Artemis moon base established by the Kenyan space agency. Jaz (Jasmine Bashara), who grew up on the Moon, makes a living by carrying messages supplemented by some low level smuggling. That is until she is offered a job with an impossible-to-refuse bonus. When things go spectacularly wrong and killers are hunting her down, she has to decide what is worth dying for. This science fiction heist thriller is fast-paced, full of Weir’s trademark maths, with a feisty smart-mouthed heroine. A fun read and I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Jaz and her dad. See my review here.

 

6. Clara’s Diary by Angelique Anderson

Clara’s Diary is a fast-paced mystery novel in a uniquely steampunk New York setting. It is set in an alternative history, in 1906, in which Octilunes, half-human, half-octopus children of the gods, have emerged from the oceans to live among humans. Detective Joseph (Joe) Desmond is determined to find who murmured his beloved daughter, especially after a look-alike Octilune is also murdered. He investigates both crimes with the help of stunning Octilune shop owner, Sadie, finding himself in danger at every turn. A big clunky at times, it’s a fun read with a world filled with fantastic gismos, memorable characters and a good dash of humour. See my review here.

 

7. Hunters’ Quest by Kasper Beaumont

Hunters’ Quest is the second book in Kasper Beaumont’s Hunters of Reloria series. It picks up from where Elven Jewel finishes as a group of hobbits and their halflings, dwarves, an elf, and a knight and a dragon-shifter travel across Reloria to warn the people of the coming invasion of reptilian monsters and gigantic cyclops, to ensure the shields are maintained and to look for a mage to help them rescue the Elven princess Shari-Rose.  Hunters’ Quest is a middle-grade to young adult fantasy adventure with a wealth of different fantasy creatures, packed full of action, some romance and humour as well as moments of pathos. It ends on a cliff-hanger leading to A Dragon’s RevengeMy full review here.


8. Guardian of Ajalon

 

Guardian of Ajalon is the third and final book of the Joan Campbell’s Poison Path trilogy though it reads well as a stand alone with events of the previous two book introduced as back story. The book follows the adventures and fortunes of Shara’s journey through the dangerous Ri’twine to the fabled kingdom of Ajalon, her friend Nicco’s preparing against attack in the hidden Grotto, and Queen Nya’s decision to go to the aid of the Grotto to save Tirragyl from destruction; each in their way countering the scheming of Lord Lucian and the riftfiends. Intertwined is the story of Prince ‘Eshua, son of Ab’El who enters Tirragyly to save Shara and the people of Tirragyl with clear redemptive analogies. I especially liked the concept of two kingdoms divided by a curse and time-shift, the poison-tree analogy and depictions of Ab’El, ‘Eshua and the Goldbreast.  My full review here.

 

9. Quench the Day by Shari Branning

I loved Shari Branning’s Quench the Day.  Set in a wild west alternative world with shapeshifting, it has the feel of a fairy-tale retelling of star-crossed lovers, Rowen and Aaro, separated and cursed by Aaro’s ruthless cousin, Ormond, and their own inability to see past their anger and grief.  Branning conveys both setting and the emotional struggles of the main characters in an evocative, gripping way. This is a book that embodies the saying, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  See my full review here.

 

10. Ready Player One by Ernest Kline

Inspired to read the book after watching the movie, I enjoyed both. Though there are significant changes between the two (especially the actual quest challenges and how Wayne finds the first key), at it’s essence the movie keeps true to the story. It is both an interesting celebration of 80s culture and the online world, while also critiquing over-immersion in that world and corporate greed that can control it.  My full review here. 

 

11. Amazing Grace by S. E. Saski

Again, Amazing Grace is book 3 in a series. Set on a huge medical space station (The Nelson Mandela), it is a glorious romp full of humour, larger-than-life characters, a sweet romance and spine-chilling adventure with devastating stakes, some really nasty villains and a high body count. Following the aftermath of previous devastating threats to the station, things soon spin out of control as old threats take on new, deadlier forms.

As a new reader to the series, I had no problem catching up with events. If anything, the first third of the book dealt with the aftermath of the previous two books in such depth it slowed the pace a bit, but once the real action started, I was totally hooked. My full review here.

 

12. Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross is a YA cyberpunk novel with a feisty young heroine (Emika Chen). After the almost penniless bounty hunter Emika glitches into the Opening Ceremony game of Warcross, its creator, Hideo Tanaka, adds her to the draft as one of the undercover ‘hunters’ tracking down the mysterious Zero.

Overall, Warcross was a pleasure to read, with some great worldbuilding (both in the virtual world, the dark net, and future Tokyo), fast-paced (mostly) and intriguing plot. And while the identity and motivations of Zero confirmed my guesses, I still found the finale a strong and satisfying finish with an impossible dilemma and room for a sequel. My full review here.

 

My Publishing Year

As for the publishing year – not as many books and stories as in 2018, but I did have a few new releases in the world of Nardva.

Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories is a selection of my short stories, mostly published in anthologies, or on the webpage, a couple unpublished, and one “Before the Wind” I wrote specifically for the collection.  I also published Ruhanna’s Flight as a stand alone short story.

 

Stone of the Sea: a novella – the third novella in the Under the Mountain series (following Heart of the Mountain & Blood Crystal) was published at the end of October.

Plus Heart of the Mountain is included in the Book Bundle – Limited Horizon, 12 books of speculative fiction with low technology available for a fantastic price.

And for 2019 – once again I’ve taken up the Goodreads Challenge (70 books) and the Popsugar Reading Challenge.

Shadow Crystals, novella 4 in the Under the Mountain series is slated to be published this month (January). With the final novella Caverns of the Deep in a couple of months time.

My apologies for the delay in getting Rasel’s Song (sequel to Akrad’s Children) ready. I’m making it a priority to get it released in the first half of this year.

Full Moon Rises: a short story will be available released on February 14.

 

 

Wishing you happy reading for 2019.  What were your favourite Spec Fic books in 2018? And which (if any) is your favourite story or book set in the world of Nardva? I’d love to know 🙂

Jeanette   January 2019

Memorable Fathers in Spec Fic

On Sunday it’s Father’s Day in Australia. It’s also three months since my father passed away. He’d lived a long and good life and is now with God, though I miss the twinkle in his eye, his warm hugs and smile.  He was my hero growing up and, though like us all, he had his quirks, he left me a wonderful legacy, including a love for books, for science-fiction and fantasy.

As a tribute to my dad I thought I’d ponder some memorable fathers (or father-figures) in speculative fiction, including in the Nardva World.  One thing that strikes me is their rarity. Fathers, especially in children’s/YA literature/books, often seem absent, whether dead (like Harry Potter’s dad or Eragon’s or Catniss Everdeen’s) or distant (the Pevensey kids’ parents) or hidden (Luke Skywalker’s dad). Even when they are alive at the beginning of the book, they often don’t make it alive (Tris’ parents, for example). No doubt, this is allows the hero or heroine to come into their own.

Not all the dads are great role models. Some we love, some are doing their best, while others need a few lessons on being a great father. Warning – possible SPOILERS ahead.

 

Professor Kirby in Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Professor Kirby is a father or grandfatherly figure to the Pevensie kids in C S Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy have been shipped to the countryside during the bombing of London in World War II.  The Professor mostly allows his housekeeper to care for the children, but when Lucy begins talking about Narnia and Edmond teases her mercilessly, it’s Professor Kirby Peter and Susan turn to. Much to their surprise, he doesn’t discount Lucy’s story and gives them some sage if enigmatic advice. What makes this even better to my mind, is that we later find out that the Prof has travelled to Narnia in his youth (recounted in The Magician’s Nephew).

 

Théoden and Denethor in Lord of the Rings

For such a sweeping saga, there are not a lot of living fathers in Lord of the Rings.  Two that come to mind are not the best of examples – Théoden King of  Eodras and Denethor Steward of Gondor.

Théoden allows himself to be enthralled by Grima Wormtongue and becomes so embittered by grief at the loss of his only son, that he ignores the plight of his loyal niece Eowyn and drives away his nephew Eomer.  Only the dramatic intervention of Gandalf breaks Wormtongues’ hold, and Théoden is restored to his senses and show both courage and heroism in protecting his people and coming to the aid of Gondor. He heroically dies in battle with the Witch King of Angmar, who Eowyn then slays.

Denethor is ensared by his own despair and pride. He sees the darkness coming out of Mordor. He knows that Aragorn will claim his rightful place as King, making him and his house redundant. I’m not sure which he fears the most. But his most egregious fault as a father is his blatant favouritism of one son over the other. He admires and loves Boromir’s stalwart military prowess, while despising Faramir’s more thoughtful approach. In his grief for Boromir’s death, he sends Faramir to certain death in defending Osgiliath, and in bitter regret almost burns himself along with his still living son on a funeral pyre. In Denethor’s case, Gandalf’s intervention and advice is denied and one cannot help but wonder whether Boromir’s downfall was in part seeded by his father’s unwise favouritism.

 

Anakin Skywalker

Who could forget Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back ‘I am your father.’ Yes, but in name only. Consumed with an unreasonable fear of losing the great love of his live, Padme, Anakin is seduced to the dark side, cemented by his unspeakable act of killing the younglings in the Jedi Temple. His turn to the dark side, rather than saving Padme, brings about her death as she gives birth to twins, Leila and Luke. The babies are whisked off and hidden from their father (perhaps not all that well in Luke’s case, with his uncle and aunt on Tatoonie). When they do finally meet, Darth Vader oscillates between trying to kill Luke and his friends, to seducing him to the dark side to serve the Emperor.  It’s a pretty sad track record (perhaps as sad a John Lock’s conman father in Lost). But in the end, the father’s love in Anakin wins out, and rather than see his son killed, he turns on the Emperor, a final redemptive act.

This is reversed in the next generation with Han and Ben Solo (Return of the Jedi and Last Jedi). Han is not a perfect father, perhaps often away, yet there is no doubt he loves his son. Yet Ben turns to the dark side, as Kylo Ren, worships his grandfather Darth Vada and kills his own father so he will not be tempted by the weakness of love. We don’t know how it will turn out for Ben but I’m thinking not good.

On a side note, I chuckle at Jeffrey Brown’s take on  Dad moments between Darth Vader and his kids.

Ned Stark versus Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones

Ned Stark is a man of integrity in a world of gutter politics. He is stern and at times tough with his children, but there is no doubt he loves both them and their mother. His interactions with Rob, Sansa, Arya, Bran and others, shows that he understands their strengths and weakness, and wishes to bring out the best in each of his children. Yet in the end it is his integrity, his drive to do what is right, and his compassion for the children of his enemy that is his undoing. He pre-warns Cersei of his plans to reveal her incest and the illegitimacy of her children, so that she might get them to safety, Instead, she strikes back, bringing him down and leaving his own children exposed and in a mammoth struggle to survive in a predatory world.

Tywin in contrast pushes his children and shows only scorn for his youngest son Tyrion because of his dwarfism. His cold calculating drive brings out only the worst in Jamie and Cersei in particular.

Lief’s Dad in Deltora’s Quest

In Deltora’s Quest, Lief’s father gives him the task to collect the seven stones of Deltora and add them to the Belt of Aidan, so that the true heir of the realm might be returned and the Shadow Lord defeated. Lief’s father, a blacksmith, seems gentle and almost mild. What Lief doesn’t know is that , through arrogance and trust the wrong people, his father allowed a great wrong, which he now greatly regrets. He teaches Lief not only to be a blacksmith but strong values and integrity, things Lief needs on his quest. And he must face his own judgement of his father’s failings, before he can come into his own.

Harry Potter in The Cursed Child

Harry Potter (another orphan) finds it hard to relate to his younger son Albus. They are different personalities and Albus makes friends with Scorpios Malfoy and is sorted in the Slytherin, the group that opposed Harry in the past.  I think Albus reminds Harry of his own failings and temptations. Albus feels the weight of these fears and expectations and travels into the past to rectify what he sees as his fathers mistakes. The results are catastrophic and by the end both Harry and Albus make peace with each other.

King Caspian in The Silver Chair

Caspian’s own father died when he was a child and he is brought up by his murderous scheming Uncle, though it is his nurse and then his tutor that form his character and teach him of the Old Narnia. Caspian marries a star’s daughter, but she is killed by a snake when their son is a young man. Both Caspian and his son are grief-stricken and then his son disappears, only to be returned to Narnia ten years later some months after Caspian dies. It seems Caspian was a good father, but is unable to help his son when tragedy strikes, perhaps because of his own grief. He longs for his son return and does everything he can to find him. Tragic as this seems, Lewis pulls back the curtain in Aslan’s Land and shows Caspian restored, with the sorrows of his life transformed, showing his suffering is not permanent (a theme in explores in more detail in The Last Battle).

 

I’ve also written some fathers good and bad in the tales of Nardva.

 

Korak in the Under the Mountain series

Korak is Zadeki’s father, one of the shapeshifting Forest Folk. We first meet him in Blood Crystal though he probably doesn’t come to the fore in Stone of the Sea (planned release date September). He also makes a cameo appearance in Akrad’s Children. Korak is a more relaxed father, perhaps in part because the Forest Folk take to heart ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, but also because he remembers what it’s like to be young, impetuous and constantly in trouble. He provides Zadeki with direction and restraint when needed or shares a joke or the adventure, giving Zadeki a strong sense of acceptance and value.

Rokkan in Akrad’s Children

Rokkan is both a good and a bad father. He had a fraught relationship with his own father, Martal. Martal showed marked favouritism for his younger son, Naetok, and held Rokkan to an almost impossible standard.  Rokkan wants to be a good father, and guides his son, Prince Mannok with more tolerance and warmth. Even so, Mannok often feels he does live up to his talented father. But it is Rokkan complicated past relationship with Kiprissa Gaia and the need to juggle the uncertain balance between clan loyalties and outwit his cousin, Haka’s, ambition for the throne, and his fears of Akrad’s ongoing influence, that means he treats the children of his former marriage, Dinis and Ista, with far less justice and compassion.

Zander in Withered Seeds

Zander’s ambition to leave the poverty and shame of his childhood behind, leads him to make an irreversible deed (as told in Moonflame). He achieves the wealth and acclaim he desired, but find himself in a loveless marriage and treated with disdain. In reaction, he becomes in many ways an uninvolved father, not giving the input and concern he perhaps should. It is only when his youngest daughter insists on coming with him on his last trip, that the opportunity arises to rectify the mistakes of the past.

 


As I said at my own dad’s memorial service .   No father, except our heavenly father, is perfect. Yet being a parent is one of the greatest privileges, sometimes ignored for what are fleeting goals (wealth, power, prestige, status). The best fathers are not necessarily perfect or strong, but warm, fair and prepared to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

Who are your favourite fathers (or father-figures) in fiction? What makes them a great, or at least, lovable fathers.

Jeanette

 

 

The latest release in the Tales of Nardva: Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories includes Ruhanna’s Flight, Before the Wind, The Herbalist’s Daughter, Heart of the Mountain, Moonflame, Withered Seeds, Stasia’s Stand and more. It’s a great way to dip into a world of Nardva for engaging heroes and heroines and thrilling adventures.

On the Horizon and more

This year has been a whirlwind of activity and it hasn’t stopped yet. So another news update post, though over the next few months I’m planning on bringing you some interivews with Spec Fic authors and reflections and explorations related to speculative fiction and my world of Nardva.

Omega Writers Book Fair (6th March)

We had a great time with a fantastic range of writers, books and workshop from Gary Clark. Looking forward to doing it all again next year.

Gold Coast Supernova (27-29th April)

Spec fic and Young Adult authors, Adele Jones and Lynne Stringer are joining me at Gold Coast Supernova. We have some fantastic books, big smiles and would love to see you — Stand 77.

On the Horizon release

The On the Horizon boxed set release is fast approaching on Wednesday 1 May. Three days to get 22 speculative fiction novels at the low price of 99c USD, including Akrad’s Children. This is great value and will only be available for purchase for a couple of months.

A collection of 22 Fantasy and Science Fiction full novels from Amazon bestselling authors. This action-packed boxset is filled with strong-willed individuals who encounter or even are queens, witches, wizards, werewolves, shifters, angels, dragons, or shadowy nemeses. Stories are character driven and set in worlds with low or no technology. You will follow their journeys to discover magical worlds, encounter dystopian lands, space stations, and galaxies they never dreamed of before their adventures. Join us On the Horizon for these deadly and dangerous quests filled with nonstop action and adventure!

Included titles:
Pretty Waiter Girls – Greg Alldredge
fantasy

The Taming of Dracul Morsus – Stephanie Barr
fantasy

Caterina’s Renaissance – Christa Bedwin
fantasy

Clock City – Rebekah Dodson
fantasy

80 AD: The Jewel of Asgard – Aiki Flinthart
fantasy

Asante’s Gullah Journey – S. A. Gibson
science fiction

Shatterwing – Donna Maree Hanson
fantasy

Dragonwar – Mirren Hogan
fantasy

The Rose of Admirias – Charis Joy Jackson
fantasy

Anaya’s Key – Carina Merritt
science fiction

Homefront – Diane Morrison
fantasy

The Selection – Jason Nugent
science fiction

Akrad’s Children – Jeanette O’Hagan
fantasy

The Korpes Files – J. I. Rogers
science fiction

Planet Woman – Judith Rook –
science fiction

Assassins of the Dead – Avril Sabine
fantasy

Molten Heart – Katie Salidas
fantasy

From the Ashes – Connor Sassmannshausen
science fiction

Rain – K. J. Taylor
fantasy

Rebel Dragon – Steve Turnbull
fantasy

The Shadow of Oz – Jay Michael Wright II
fantasy

Beast Within – Stephanie Barr
fantasy

We will be having a pre-release party from 1pm 29th April  (Pacific time) – ie 6am 30th April Brisbane time.

In addition your can participate in the draw (US/CANADA only) to win 30 paperback books! Awesome selection of books. Sponsored by On the Horizon

Check out the list of giveaway books offered here.

Pre-order On the Horizon here.

In the meantime, I’m working on the sequel in the Heart of the Mountain series & the Akrad’s Legacy series, plus getting Akrad’s Children and Ruhanna’s Flight and other stories in print form. I also have had a short story accepted for an anthology though that’s all I can say at the moment.

Happy reading.

Jeanette