Why I Wrote Flotsam – Guest Post by R. J. Theodore

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Today’s guest is the author of Flotsam.  I would call Flotsam a scifi steampunk fantasy – in other worlds – very cool!

Why I Wrote FLOTSAM
Or, How Stories are Itchy Mosquito Bites and it’s Totally Okay if You Want to Scratch at Them

by R. J. Theodore

I was possessed. Inspired. I was taken in by the fantasy of a world I preferred over my reality. I was lonely. And bored. I was fresh out of college, I had a new job, and I feared my real-life adventures were over.

I believe everyone has books in them. For me, the summer of 2003 planted and nurtured the seed that became the sprout that became the mighty sequoia of my author career. Mind you, neither I nor my career is sequoia-sized.

Me? I’m small. Perhaps birch or dogwood-sized, but this isn’t about the accurate portrayal of me as a woody plant. This is about epic fantasy and swashbuckling and otherworldly magic. I’ve got a book. And I believe you’ve got a book. We’re book-having trees – pick your variety – and we’re bursting at the seams with stories.

Don’t think so? Fight me. I started as an innocent with no idea I was going to write FLOTSAM until I was in the middle of the thing.

I could have laughed off the idea, amused myself with a single illustration of a character who appeared to me while I was watching a flick, and then moved on with my life. If I hadn’t been in the uncomfortable transition between college and corporate life that summer, the vaporous form of a female pirate captain might have been only a passing fancy quickly forgotten.

And I think that’s what happens to sort folks into writers and non-writers. People have ideas and, as if the idea were a mosquito buzzing around their head, they wave it off. Maybe a passing comment, but the very notion of inviting that story mosquito to drink from their veins is unapproachable. Society likes blockbuster movies based on bestselling novels, but I don’t think society really values the moment when the idea happens, unless that idea is a tennis racket which syncs with your smartphone to schedule follow-up meetings with your opponent to gloat about your score. The pieces of stories which come to us from flashes of inspiration are not things we readily want others to know about, especially if we are trying to fit in with the society that we perceive wants an “As Seen on Shark Tank” product promising to make life effortless, instead of a book that demands an investment of time and attention.

I think the reason I write books when other people don’t is I hear that whining buzz and my instinct is to bare my throat to it, rather than shoo it away. This instinct wasn’t always so … instinctive. First, I had to welcome the buzz when I heard it. It helped I was suffering a new, unfamiliar anxiety and I was eager to escape. Talis’s story, daydreaming of it and eventually recording it, provided a welcome distraction.

I’ve recently heard the suggestion that story-creators are addicts. That those who go from idea to finished work are those who give in to the compulsion to create. I know I have an addictive personality, so I’m all for that explanation. No matter what I do, this invented world is on my mind. I nearly destroyed my wrist and back trying to illustrate the story, because coming out of art school, visual expression was all I knew. I worked at my oversized pages whenever I had spare time, driven to get my story into the world. I thought I would be free once it was done. That was never ever going to be an option.

Now I know I will never be free of story ideas. They swarm around me, buzzing so loud I may miss entire conversations. It’s as distracting as the metaphor makes it sound, and as itchy as the mosquito bites are in real life. Except this itchy saliva also wakes you out of dead sleeps and shoves you toward your keyboard.

But once I let the idea of FLOTSAM bite me, I had no other choice. Giving into that first story granted me an extra-sensory perception. Now I see stories in everything. Offhand comments; the warm glow of flame over the ash in a fireplace; the crescent shadows cast by leaves during an eclipse; the texture of a handwoven net preserved from the 1800s; vocabulary; weather; steak knives. Stories are everywhere.

I was compelled to write FLOTSAM and, by writing FLOTSAM, I am now compelled to write more. I didn’t shoo away that mosquito, and I can’t seem to shoo away these next swarms. Life as a storyteller is all about ending up as their pincushion.

I let my character tell me about herself, about her world, the people in her life, the ship she dreamed of, and the things that got her out of bed in the morning. And through chronicling it all, I discovered what I wanted out of life as well.

FLOTSAM is her story tangled with mine. As Talis comes to grips with her desires and what she’s willing to do to obtain them, it mirrors my own journey to learn what I wanted and what it’s worth to me.

It wasn’t what either of us expected.

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About Flotsam

Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.

Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

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About the Author

R J THEODORE is hellbent on keeping herself busy. Seriously folks, if she has two spare minutes to rub together at the end of the day, she invents a new project with which to occupy them.

She lives in New England with her family, enjoys design, illustration, podcasting, binging on many forms of visual and written media, napping with her cats, and cooking. She is passionate about art and coffee.

FLOTSAM, Theodore’s debut novel, is available in print, digital, and audio from Parvus Press.

Connect with the author:
Author Web site: https://www.rjtheodore.com
Publisher’s Web site: https://parvuspress.com/flotsam/
Twitter account: https://twitter.com/bittybittyzap

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See my review of Flotsam here.

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Horizon and Infinity by Tabitha Lord – 2 Reviews

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Reviews by Riley

Recently, I read two great scifi books in Tabitha Lord’s Horizon series.  So far these are the only two books in the series, but I am hoping for more soon!  (As I write this post, both of these books are just $.99.  A great deal!)

Thank you to Tabitha Lord, who provided copies of her books so that I could bring you my honest reviews.

About Horizon

Caeli Crys isn’t living—she’s surviving. On the run after the genocide of her empathic people, she witnesses a spaceship crash near her hidden camp. When she feels the injured pilot suffering from miles away, she can’t help but risk discovery to save his life.

Commander Derek Markham awakens stranded on an uncharted planet. His co-pilot is dead, his ship is in ruins, and he’s only alive because a beautiful young woman is healing him with her mind.

As Derek recovers, Caeli shares the horror of her past and her fear for the future. When Derek’s command ship, Horizon, sends rescue, Derek convinces Caeli to leave with him. But his world is as treacherous as hers—full of spies, interplanetary terrorist plots, and political intrigue. Soon the Horizon team is racing to defend an outlying planet from a deadly enemy, and Caeli’s unique skills may just give them the edge they need to save it.

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Review of Horizon

Horizon is a two-part story. The first story takes place on Almagest, Caeli’s home world. The second story takes place off world. The stories are intertwined by the characters and, if you continue to read the series, you will find they are connected by even more.

In the story, the Almagest society is divided into Novali and Amathi. The Novali are the people with special gifts such as empathy, telepathy and the ability to heal with the mind – like Caeli. Noone knows for sure how they acquired these abilities. Eventually, the Amathi, split from the Novali and for years, both peoples lived apart, yet in peace. The Novali also believe that contact with those off-world is too risky and have worked to maintain a psychic cover for their world.

The differences between the two peoples and the psychic cover become points of contention for the Amathi and eventually, the peace is shattered in a terrible way, eventually leading to Caeli being on the run, rescuing Derek and eventually leaving her home planet to be safe on the Horizon. The life-changing decision to leave home is depicted with angst and emotion for Caeli – as it should.

Caeli is the most fascinating character in Horizon. She has been through so much. She struggles, she perseveres. She succeeds. She struggles again. Off of her home world, she finds her healing talents are unique but appreciated. And she can appreciate and learn from the healing skills and technology of the Horizon. Eventually, Caeli will fill a vital role with the Horizon’s own crew, despite the fact that she is not really part of their world. Caeli is a multi-faceted character that rises to every occasion, but not without difficulty and second thoughts.

The romance between Derek and Caeli is a key motivator for both characters, not just in their relationship, but also in everything else that goes on. It did not get in the way of the rest of the story, but held an equally important role in the overall tale.

Derek is a strong, take-charge leader, once he is back on Horizon. He invites challenge and meets it head on. I did think the big take-down of the bad guys at the end went a little too smoothly, but in the end, it will turn out to have other consequences.

One of my favorite parts of the story is Almagest. It is an interesting world that was, at one time, more advanced and probably had contact with other worlds. You never really get the whole story of what happened. It has been lost over war and time. I like how much of the Almagest history is unknown. This makes for much theorizing. And it likely, fodder for future stories.

5 stars for Horizon. I recommend this one for scifi romance readers who appreciate an intricate plot that is a open to many possible endings, both for this book and for the series.

About Infinity

In the second installment of the award-winning Horizon series, Dr. Caeli Crys returns to her war-torn world to fight for those she left behind.

Almagest, Caeli’s home, stands on the brink of revolution. Long hidden from the rest of the galaxy, the once-peaceful planet suffers under a regime that grows more violent and oppressive by the day.

Marcus, Almagest’s dictator, is building an arsenal of alien weaponry by selling empathic children into slavery. A resistance has risen, but they are outmanned, outgunned, and in hiding.  Joined by Commander Derek Markham and his elite squadron of operatives, Caeli embarks on a dangerous mission to find the Resistance, rescue her captive people, and save her civilization from destruction.

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Review of Infinity

In book 1, Horizon, the story ended with Caeli safely away from her home planet of Almagest. It could have ended there, but Caeli was not really the kind of person who would have wanted to leave her friends in a bad situation. So Infinity is the story of Caeli going home.

The situation has become quite bad. Marcus, the Amathi leader/dictator, has imprisoned the Novali and is going after the resistance. He has sold one of the Novali children to a slaver and intends to sell more. You can imagine what an unscruplous person would want to do with someone who could read minds or heal/hurt with their mind. Marcus is the kind of villian everyone loves to hate. Truth be told, he seems to be setting up his world for revolution while blindly following his own agenda.

Caeli’s journey home and the ensuing revolution is one of the most emotion-filled sci fi stories I’ve read lately. Ms. Lord has really focused on the characters and their relationships and their feelings, without sacrificing any of the needed plotting and action. Action like spying and rescuing and getting captured and a battle for the cause. Derek and his team join the cause even though it is not their world. There are political reasons for this, but it is also the right thing to do. Derek and Caeli have become a team, both romantically and in saving the world. They also have some really great people on their team, both from the world of Almagest and from the Horizon.

I said this when I reviewed Horizon and it still holds true for Infinity. I like how much of the Almagest history is unknown, lost in a war. In Infinity, some of Almagest’s history and the beginnings of the Novali is revealed through computer logs. But not all. I can still theorize all I want. Will my theories prove true or not? I am going to have to read the next book in the series!

The ending of Infinity is both satisfying and full of questions. Plus there is a teaser for the next book. 5 stars for Infinity and…..next book please!

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Short Reviews – Two YA SciFi

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Reviews by Linda

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles, #1) by L. Penelope

About A Face Like Glass

In Caverna, lies are an art — and everyone’s an artist…

In the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare. They create wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned. Only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear — at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed…

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Review of A Face Like Glass

Wow, for all you science fiction readers this is a must read. I think from page 1 to 487 you will be caught up in the tale of an underground world in which an above ground outsider finds herself. The 12-year-old girl will lead you thru all the emotions we humans take for granted that are not allowed to show on the faces of the inhabitants of the Caverna. She encounters all kinds of treachery and deceit once she is thrown into the center of the royal court. Her ability to show real emotions on her face makes her a very feared and dangerous  person to the Grand Steward leader of Caverna.

I want to thank one of our patrons for recommending this book as a good read.

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About Song of Blood and Stone

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and its people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their vicious captors and together embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

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Review of Song of Blood and Stone

This book tackles not only class issues but brings out racism. Thru the avenue of science fiction she lets her characters fight the prejudice of magical and color differences . In this world biracial romance is not tolerated, nor is romance allowed between the classes. Our heroine and hero win the battle against evil magic , but I am sure that the next book in the series, will still be dealing with prejudices of the human race. I recommend you read it when it comes out in May. You will find it hard to put down.

Note:  Song of Blood and Stone was originally self-published by the author in 2015. The book has been revised and reedited and will be released again by St. Martin’s Press on 5/1/2018.

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