Sunday, 28 November 2010

Summer Santas and Elves



While you enjoy that little bit of Kiwi Christmas fun, consider that those guys ran 10km in santa suits to fundraise for the GP youth group - in other words, to fund cool camps and events and help out those kids who otherwise couldn't go bowling and that sort of thing.

So what else is new? I FINISHED A STORY!! Woohoo! This is unusual as it is not part of my Comet Born series nor even in my preferred genre. It remains to be seen whether it's any good; unfortunately, it seems to have ended up all chicky and romantic, which no doubt is why I had such a hard time writing it. Did I mention I can't stand reading romance? Ick. More on that later, if it ever sees the light of day.  Still, it came in at a respectable almost 4000 words, though I pity whoever has to read 'em.

The river of paying work is still coming, so this week is mostly taken care of as well. My discipline is getting a little better - last week I mostly started work around 8pm and finished after midnight, yet didn't accomplish much during the day at all. Today I finished before 5pm, phew!

I've continued to mess around with the Reaper music software, with varying success. Last night's effort wasn't helped by the fact that I put in a melody line before changing the BPM from 120 to 150, with the result that all my lines are now in sets of three bars - like a 6/8 beat but on a 4/4 grid. Nope, doesn't work at all. I'll have to redraw that song. And drawing it is - since I haven't yet figured out how to attach my keyboard, all of it is constructed by clicking in the note pane. Takes some getting used to - sure ain't like tinkling on the piano - but it does the job.

I should really set up a page somewhere for the few songs I've completed. Some of them are okay, if you ignore the propensity for whooshing sound effects and such. Might be good for a laugh, eh?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Globetrotter's Gallivants

Well, I finally did it - culled some of the best photos from my travelling years, and put them all in one place. Theoretically I'm all caught up now - except for any NZ-themed shows that might still be in the offing. Anyway, here it is - a bunch of different countries, but largely Germany, which was my home base for seven years. At the end there are links to other, shorter themed shows. Enjoy!



The soundtrack is "Stepping Stones in Time" - so appropriate for these ancient places, and also for a decade of memories - once again provided by the talented Mike Rogers, and you can find the whole album over at http://michaellrogers.virb.com/magnetica.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Bad Blogging and Good Work

Yep, there it is. I'm a bad blogger. So often I don't bother writing anything down, even though I know fine well it would make a good blog. There are reasons for this, sure - one being that I believe I only have a certain amount of inspiration for a given day and if I use it on a blog, I can't use it on fiction. This has proven true on occasion, but I surely don't write fiction every day so there are some left over for blogging.

Anyway, there is plenty going on in this little ol' corner of the world. Our new flatmate has been here just over a week and is settling in well - we're glad to have him. The cat is back to her old self after a nasty tooth extraction. I have a lot of work on this week, of the paying kind - which is nice, even if it's rather too much for my liking. It's likely to be 20 hours of work in the one week which is quite unusual for me.

Worked a bit on a short story yesterday. It is progressing, if slowly. I suspect the slowness is because it is one of my first attempts at actual fantasy (as opposed to sci-fi) - though I do have a sci-fi twist in it for sure. It's just not my first choice of genre and it's proving difficult to get into the groove.

In other writing, I suppose I should be thinking about the next episode of Comet Born, as Walt reminded me yesterday. The last one isn't published yet, but I guess that shouldn't stop me. The project continues to be an adventure in non-planning, which is a little scary for my Snowflaking self. Okay, a lot scary. But so far, very fun, and you can read all the published episodes from the Comet Born index.

Summer is coming on quite nicely indeed. If it's this hot in November, what'll it be like in February? Yesterday our church held a fun run at Takapuna beach to fundraise for the youth group. Two of the guys ran the full 10 kilometres dressed in Santa suits and beards. I got some great video of that event, so look out for that when I've put it all together.

My friend C.S. Lakin has posted a wonderful blog about writer's wordcount and why it doesn't matter. It is a refreshing view in a time when many authors are just all about the numbers. Doing a small amount of good work is just as valuable. Go read that post.

So there we go. Not such a bad show after all. I have now put the "write new blog post" page link into my Morning Coffee so perhaps I won't forget for quite so long the next time around.  :)

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Influencing Authors and the tales behind them

So I was offline for nearly two whole days, enjoying my weekend, and arrive back to find myself tagged umpteen ways to Timbuktu with this author meme thing that was already floating around last week. I've read the contributions and the reasonings and the plea for elucidation rather than just spouting off names. Okay, let's do this properly.

[Fabulous place, Timbuktu, by the way. Here's a picture - that's me on the right:]


I'm going to start at the beginning and attempt to move chronologically, giving my utterly personal reasons as we go. Hmm, I wonder if it'll be what you expect...I may even surprise myself.


1. C.S. Lewis 
The Narnia books were likely the first full-length novels I read - first read aloud by parents, then by myself by the time I was six or so. These taught me the thrill of being lost inside a story and gave me the addiction to reading that I still suffer from today.

2. John White 
The Tower of Geburah, at 600 pages, was my Christmas gift right before I turned seven. I read it in three days and sorely felt the lack of further items in this category. I mean, this was the eighties after all. Mr. White was in fact a non-fiction writer, and it shows when I look at his work now, but at the time I didn't care. That book taught me that a plot can go on and on and on - for hundreds and hundreds of pages - and still be cohesive and united.

3. Enid Blyton
Don't laugh. I once owned over 40 of her novels, and spent many a summer's day devouring two or three of them back to back. Though obviously dated, they were quite exciting to a child and involved a good amount of childish derring-do - e.g. camping and travelling without adults came up quite a lot. These books taught me a large variety of different plots, as well as the varying "feelings of tension" brought on by individual villains, which were never the same twice.

4. Star Trek
I'm counting all the authors as a collective, because they all wrote in the same world...a world of a hopeful future, the thrill of exploring the vastness of space, the character and team dynamics. These things have always stayed with me. And if anyone's asking, my favourite Trek movies are 4, 5, 8, 9 and 11. :) The Trek novels are also worth a mention - some very good writers there, with bold concepts of their own even while staying within the established lore.

5. Frank Peretti
I consumed This Present Darkness as soon as it came into the house one fine day in 1987. It was a real eye-opener to what could be done with fiction, blurring the line to reality, and displaying an intricately plotted storyline that still astonishes today.

6. Stephen Lawhead
I'll never forget the day Dad brought Taliesin home from a foray to the Christian bookshop. Hullo, what's this? I thought as I discovered the second chapter was not about the same people and places as the first. But I quickly fell in love with the alternating manner of telling, which made the moment of their meeting all the more significant. I ended up writing my first full-length novel in that very method many years later.
That is only the first book of the Pendragon Cycle. I grew to love the second, Merlin, even more, followed by all the others and the supposedly unrelated modern-day "Avalon".
Then came Albion and Empyrion. I dare any warm-hearted human not to be moved by the scene in The Siege of Dome where the telepathic fish come to comfort a desperate traveller.

7. Beth W.
A homeschool friend from childhood who conspired with me to co-write a story of a local urban legend being proven. I was with her on her paper run and the front page carried a story of said legend, which got us talking. We planned out the entire story and agreed each of us would write a version, to be combined later. She didn't get terribly far with hers - but I finished mine at the respectable length of 20,000 words over several months at the age of 14. So thanks, Beth, for prodding me to do it.

(Insert long, boring years of reading mostly historical fiction. Or nothing at all. Blame university, and then living in Germany)

8. Jeremy Robinson
A champion of independent publishing! His first novel The Didymus Contingency blew me away by its concept and plotting, as well as the fact that Jeremy was the publisher. He moved from self-publishing, to his own publishing company, and eventually into traditional publishing. A success story to aspire to.

9. Frank Creed
Founder of the Lost Genre Guild, which provided the support and feedback for nearly everything I have done in serious writing and publishing to date, and a high-concept novelist of fast-moving cyberpunk - the genre I now feel most at home in. All about opening doors of possibility.

10. Randy Ingermanson
Long before I ever got hold of his novels (which isn't easy these days) I discovered his writing site and Snowflake method for novel planning. Unbeknownst to me, I had been using a similar system (though not so well defined) to plot my novels already, but he came along and made it all perfectly clear. To this day, the Snowflake (well, the bits of it that I use) is my very favouritest part of novel writing.

11. Darryl Sloan
Once a Christian, Darryl has moved away from that and now constantly questions our relationship to reality. Aside from being great fodder for sci-fi ideas, the challenge to established thought is a healthy thing.

12. Chris Walley
Who else has crafted 1000+ pages of one memorable, mind-blowing story? Chris has truly expanded the horizons of science fiction.

13. The Lost Genre Guild authors
Everyone who's stepped up to encourage in hard times, to critique a novel, to assist with critiquing and reviewing - these guys are the best. I would never have gotten this far in my writing without them.

14. Authors and associates I visited on my "roadtrip" in 08
Everyone who took me in for an hour or a day or a week while I crossed the USA by myself. Each shared their own particular authorness and insights with me, and their input is still with me today. I planned to write the roadtrip novel "Godspeed" while actually travelling - but you know how travelling is. Just as well everyone is so memorable.

15. Finally - All the authors I've published!
Seriously, these guys are da bomb. In working through manuscripts together, they've taught me so much. Each story has touched me in its own way, and each writer has left their mark on my own approach. I'm somewhat in awe to be called their publisher - I only hope to be truly worthy of that name.

Monday, 20 September 2010

A Future Visit to the Past

I'm scared stiff. Not a circumstance that happens very often, but this is one of them. You see, next week I'm about to take a trip into the milieu of my past life, reconnecting with a bunch of people I used to know from worship camps. It's a different camp (www.kiwisong.co.nz), but in the same spirit, and many of the same folks will be there. I don't particularly want to learn about worship - been there, done that, suffered the abuse - but my creative mind remembers all too well that my best writing is done in church, and what better way to give myself a jildy than to spend all week at a camp? In a lovely remote coastal location no less?

The thing I'm really scared about is that most if not all of these old friends are of the highly prophetic type. Yes, I know that's a good thing. A real good thing in fact. But that means there's a very good chance that God might speak to me. He and I have observed silence for so long that I know I'll be a little awkward, even if he isn't. He might see fit to give me clues about just what it is that is still broken inside of me after severe spiritual abuse as a worship leader. There might be tears and healing. Or there might not. I'm trying not to set any expectations, because I could be setting myself up for disappointment. Then again, I can't expect to show up in this state in such a spiritually charged atmosphere and have nothing happen.

I will be meeting some of the very people who once prophesied I would go to Germany. Now, for sure they're not responsible for the abuse that happened while I was there. Not even God is responsible for that, actually. Still, it'll be weird telling them what a disaster it turned out to be (Did you miss that story? Part 1 Part 2).

I guess I'm also scared that someone will tell me what I'm doing wrong, as many others have done over the years. Get over it, they said. You have to worship whether you feel like it or not. Well, folks, I'm sorry. My worship fuse is blown, and it's going to take more than "getting over it" to be able to even sing in church again. Sure, I've found other ways to express my joie de vivre, such as it is. But writing a story is much harder than writing a song, let me tell you.

Which brings me to a problem: all this terror is crippling my ability to write. I'm on a deadline; need to write at least one story today, and get it critiqued, edited and submitted by the end of the week. Yesterday all I did was rearrange my room and my office area. Didn't even tidy up first. With the result that the mess is just elsewhere now. Mountains of clothes by the bed. An overflowing in-tray of paperwork to file. Every seat (well, 4 out of 5) piled high with random stuff. A sink full of dishes, a stinky cat litterbox. No doubt all this mess is just an external sign of the chaos within. And I've never been able to write amidst a mess.

Each night I tell myself I won't turn on the computer in the morning until I've tidied up. But then I have to have it on to play music while I'm tidying - and the music does help my composure, thank the Lord for Mike, composer extraordinaire. So I end up checking my mail and everything anyway, and the room is not tidy, and I do not write.

Haven't had any human contact for 48 hours, except online; that's likely to change today, though I'd rather stay a hermit. Can you hear me tearing my hair out? I have a long list of stuff to finish this week, and zero ability to get started on it. Creative work requires a good frame of mind, and that I do not have right now.

So, I'm sorry about the gut-spilling here, but if you weren't put off by the title, it's your own problem, and I'd like to call you friend. Will God speak to me next week through old (or new) friends? I cannot say. All I know is that probably, nothing will be the same.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Video: Lagoon Fish of New Caledonia



Filmed at sea and in the Nouméa Aquarium, back in July.
Music from http://michaellrogers.virb.com

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Lateness, Life, and Obligations

My new  books arrived...in a sack! on TwitpicToday I got a large blue sack in the mail. Inside was a foot-long box. It contained just ten books, five each of Splashdown's new releases. The sack, in my opinion, was overkill - but certainly fun.

I have been feeling rather overwhelmed lately, and not getting near enough done as I believe myself capable of. In need of a brainstorming session, perhaps, a mind map on a very large piece of paper, or the inside of that there sack. Pursued by the suspicion that I've forgotten something very important, while on the inside crying out for peace.

The things filling up each day seem to fall into one of three categories: obligations, which have to come first; things that are late, and thus quite urgent; and then there are the other things that make up real life.

Obligations include working and taking care of my boarders - shopping and cooking mainly. I love to cook, but it takes a lot of time out of my best part of the day, since I start getting active in the late afternoon and then have to stop and make dinner. And work, yes, earning money, but thank goodness it's irregular and some of it is at will to be taken on as I wish or not.

The late things. Ouch. Mostly to do with writing and publishing. A story due here, another there. Large numbers of books to be read and reviewed, many with deadlines. Marketing my own books, following up on reviewers, all that sort of thing. A full-to-bursting Acquisitions folder for Splashdown's author talent quest. Keeping tabs on projects in the works for upcoming release. Website tweaks. Bookkeeping.

And the Life things. Things my passion calls me to pursue. Painting. Writing. Walking on the beach. Reading - that two-foot stack of novels isn't getting any smaller. Snuggling the cat. Sleeping plenty. Yep, I need that to stay sane. Plus other random spice like playing bodhran (haven't done that in weeks) or a little exercise.

So what's my solution? Keep calm, in any case. Don't panic. Don't try and do everything at once, either. If some things end up taking longer than I thought, well, okay. So be it.

Do what must be done. Do it well. Work enough to survive, but no more.

Fight for space to let passions flow free. Without them, there is no spark.

Each of the three areas - late stuff, life, and obligations - contains about an equal amount of stuff. So I figure to try doing one, then another, and another. One by one. Don't know as I'll ever get done, but it's my aim to keep 'em more or less equal.

And the publishing? That IS a passion. Just one that requires a lot more time input than any other. Patience, I tell myself. All in good time. No need to overreact and puff up the issues till they are as big as that sack around a handful of books. Cause the books are what it's all about, really...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

another song for the sea

sand, seaweed, soccer
gulls dozing on black volcanic rocks
A complete rainbow spans the sky
bright glow of seven colours
reflected in the wet beach gleam
small children in gumboots
and cosy hoodies
run circles around their parents
Sun reaches through the clouds to my page
the wind is bitter cold
but stellar radiation cheers this winter day.
Shortly I will leave this rich green of grass
this simple pine bench
this calm ocean murmur.
food to buy, business to do
money to make and spend
but before that comes this island of quiet
this orchestra of nature and humanity
The road rescue man,
come to jumpstart a stranded vehicle,
chatting about rural economics
The families dodging stray raindrops
The surfers looking in vain for a wave.
the islands are still brown from summer’s drought
but now the rains have come
and life will follow after.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Déjà Vu

It was even the same taxi driver.

Two weeks earlier, my flatmate and I were both up insanely early - she didn't need to be, but wanted to give me a send-off for my trip. I left the cat snoozing under the warm covers. Oh-dark-thirty, a glance out the kitchen window told us the taxi was early. Gulp down the tea, heave luggage out the door. She helped me with the bags and waved enthusiastically as the taxi driver attempted to reverse out of the driveway and ended up making mud off the edge of the concrete.

Then, it was a happy occasion. And it was a wonderful trip, as you'll know if you've read my recent Friday posts.

Just one day after I got back, my flatmate got news that her mother is battling cancer. Quickly, she booked a flight to leave the country and be with her. Sooner than anyone could have imagined, we were both up insanely early again, both dragging bags out to the taxi again, where the driver inquired whether I'd had a good holiday.

He mangled the grass strip again on his way out. Anyone'd think the concrete wasn't wide enough. But as I waved my friend away and turned to go inside, shut out the cold and get back in my bed where the cat still waited, I pondered how two situations that looked so much alike could be so utterly different.

I suppose my point is that no matter what you see with your eyes, the facts of the matter can vary greatly. In part, this is what we do as writers: we observe, and add a different background to the same actions we have seen from the people around us. Or we place the scenario in an invented world. What if the house were a space station and the taxi were a shuttle? Suddenly the grip of winter seems more ominous, as if it could come close to the icy vacuum of space. Perhaps it is as close as one may come in these parts.

And so the endless cycle of greetings and partings goes on, and who knows what it will bring? I've got three spare bedrooms now...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Who are you, Nouméa?



So I’m home again from my travels, with plenty to tell you about New Caledonia. It was my first time there, and as the plane neared the island, the coral reef became visible – the reef that encloses the world’s largest lagoon, so I’m told. Outside the reef, choppy winter blue seas roll up and crash onto the divider. Within, pale sand shines through to form the brightest, purest turquoise colour, dotted with giant corals.

Coming in to land, great green slopes rise up around the aircraft. You thought New Zealand was lush? Well, it is, but it’s got nothing on New Caledonia in the wet season. "Wet" being a short downpour every fourth day or so. Tall folds of mountains clothed in rich forests wrap the road to the city. Soon I am alighting at Anse Vata. But I’ve already told you about that; go look at last week’s post if you haven’t already.

At first it was hard to grasp the character of Nouméa, a place both thoroughly tropical and thoroughly European – a contradiction in terms. But the island’s natives are all citizens of France, and the bakers produce fresh bread all day long as French custom requires. Of course the brand of French spoken here has its own quirks and is a little different to standard language – much like New Zealand English differs from British or American, I imagine.

Nouméa boasts just on 100,000 inhabitants, spread out across the hills and valleys of a sizeable peninsula in the southwest of the island of New Caledonia, just 350km long in the vastness of the Pacific. Locals never lived on this promontory before the coming of the Europeans, who settled there because of the deep harbour.  Later, during World War II, many thousands of soldiers passed through since Nouméa was the U.S. Army headquarters for the Pacific.

The local currency is Pacific Francs, of which you need a couple of hundred for a loaf of bread, and a couple of thousand to dine out. The cost of living is high, but you can haggle for bargains at the waterside markets where there is a building especially for fish, one for meat, and several for fruit, vegetables, baked goods, and handcrafts.

The gentle winter sunshine makes this the perfect escape in July, although it’s mostly too cold for swimming at this time of year. Wild and refined, stylish and rough, simple yet sophisticated – a unique place indeed.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

I write in church (divine inspiration)

I huddle in the crowd standing around me
forest-like, branches waving
amidst the voices I do not join
velvety melted chocolate and pure diamond clarity
that is what they sound like
I write all through the preaching
—what’s that you say? this is not what one should do
of course, but who am I to observe social strictures
I am damaged
but God is close here, the source of my words
the poetry that swirls through the room.
I am here to meet him
and that is what I do
unacceptable though it might seem to certain ones.
Thank goodness for the anonymity of pen and paper.
So while my mind whirls with superheros and cyborgs,
God looks through my eyes at these scribblings
And do you know what?
He’s smiling. Dancing.
Suggesting words. Injecting significance.
Assisting in the birth of stories,
congealing my mess of letters into something he wants in the world.
And so, as the words and music wash over me,
shake the chair,
fill the room,
I sense God’s favour in the bread and wine
and he says
everything’s all right.
I do not sing. I’m not ready for that yet.
but the chords of my heart are in motion

(For the background, please see Monday's post)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

On Surviving Abuse, Part 2

See last Monday's post for the first part.

Maybe this psychological abuse is one reason that the book I was driven to write, right after I finished the first one, was all about mind control. In Legendary Space Pilgrims, I describe a physical and invasive form of emotional manipulation and a journey to freedom. No doubt it carries reflections of my own pilgrimage in liberating my thoughts once more.

That picture was taken in the thick of it. I imagine I look a bit harrowed. Trying to talk myself into not rocking the boat, because that would just get me hurt.

A similar manipulative effect was thrust on my prayer life. As we prayed together in the group, this man would often interrupt and ask why I prayed this or that and whether I had asked God if that was the right thing to pray, because he was certain it wasn't. So I learned to spout highly spiritual prayers tailored to please the leader, but which came nowhere near my own heart. To this day I will not pray aloud in a group. In fact, I don't pray at all in the usual sense, not even in my head. Hence the companionable silence with God. I don't think he minds. He's not like that.


For years it was hard to even enter a church. Yet I insisted on doing it, because it remained the best place to meet people with similar moral standards to my own. Funnily enough, the same year I left the scene of that group, I ended up leading worship for several months with the guitar in a little church in Balbriggan, Ireland, due to sheer need - they had no one else to do it. They were very supportive and didn't notice the stiffness I felt. Anyway, back in New Zealand after that, all through last year, I would frequently run out of church services to weep profusely for reasons I couldn't pinpoint. Looking back I think it was grief for the faith I once had, the trust in the Spirit's guidance which had been so thoroughly destroyed.

Now I no longer grieve, but I have not regained what was lost. Rather, I have found a peace with the way things are. I'm thankful for all I have been given - and it is not inconsequential - and when I write, often it is as if the words come spiralling down from heaven to my screen. If that isn't living with God, I don't know what is. Woe betide any who push me and insist I'm not doing it right. Insistence is exactly what damaged me. I am now allergic to pressure and power plays. The life and the faith I have now is vastly different to what used to be, but I would go so far as to say it's better.

There are many who would say I'm not a real Christian, because of not praying, or my irreverent use of church services to write stories, or because I am sick to the stomach with what is known as Christian evangelism. That's okay. You can think what you like. Maybe I'm not a Christian according to your standards. But you know what? I don't think I care. And what's more...I don't think God cares, either.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Anse Vata, New Caledonia



Itchy feet again? Yep, it's your neighbourhood globetrotter reporting in from a tiny coral island off the coast of Noumea. Looking back across the water, I see the hotel mile along Anse Vata beach, and the towering mountains beyond the city.

Please excuse me if this post is a little scatterbrained. Another time I’ll get some background information for you on Noumea proper, but for now, all I’ve seen so far is the beach and this island.

A yellow water taxi brought me here this morning for the snorkelling. Alighting from the boat into shallow water, I stepped onto a beach consisting of strangely-shaped coral pieces. This is the Ile aux Canards,though I never saw a duck here. It is small enough to walk around in five minutes, each angle offering new views of the lush and rugged mainland.

We are still firmly inside the lagoon made by the protective barrier reef that surrounds New Caledonia's Grande Terre. Off to the east, white breakers are just visible beyond the Amedee lighthouse.

Anse Vata is where the tourists stay, but there aren't  too many here now in the tropical winter. At 25 degrees Celsius, that's equal to summer back home in NZ. There are a couple of decent restaurants and bakeries, but it's quite a hike to the supermarket.

Everything's pricey here, for the simple reason that it's nearly all imported. Even the butter comes from France - but boy, is it good! Tropical ambience mingles with European chic to make for a unique experience.

This island paradise is in fact still a colony of France, and all the locals are French citizens, whether of Kanak or European origin. They gather at the beach to sing and play bowls, and I've even seen them napping on the grass under the palm trees.

The aquarium at Anse Vata is well worth a visit. You get a real close look at brilliantly diverse fish and deep-sea life forms. I was particularly taken with the glowing corals in yellow and orange and blue, displayed in a pitch-dark room without artificial light.

And here at the Ile aux Canards, I've floated amidst hundreds of brightly-coloured fish just a few metres from the shore. This is a great place to be, and especially for us New Zealanders - it is only a three hour flight from home.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

THE VOICE’S WORDS TO PILGRIMS

As recounted in the history of the Legendary Space Pilgrims, these are the first of the Words which preserved the journeyers from the Baxter mindwiping, aided them in escaping Planet Monday, and guided them through many challenges to their destination. In the days before they left Monday, or rather Lumina as we call it here on Viva, it was these very words which Mario spoke to silence the emotion alarms and keep himself and Caitlin safe until the appointed time. Once their travel began, they also had need of the Words to keep them sane in the confinement of the spacepod and help them through various dangers on the planets they visited. They did not know what—or whom—they spoke of; they were unfamiliar with our Order of the Pathfinders and possessed no concept of the King, except in the one practical matter that they did hear his Voice and followed, which is why we determined that they were indeed the fulfillment of the Legend.
—Darcel, Chief Historian, Council of Elders, City of Spire, Planet Viva.


Listen to me—I must be first.
Do not confuse me with another,
and do not speak carelessly of me.
Be still and listen, and I will speak.
Obey what I ask
and the Pathfinders I will send you.
Treat life in a manner worthy of me.
Esteem loyalty
and do not give in to bent desires.
Respect what belongs to another.
Speak the truth at all times,
and do not wish for anything I do not give you,
for I will give everything you need.





Legendary Space Pilgrims by Grace Bridges
Now available from www.splashdownbooks.com!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

On Surviving Abuse, Part 1

I'm a survivor.

It's been a long time coming, this post. Even now I'm trying to avoid writing it. But I owe my friends an explanation, at least of the sort that can be given in public, as to why me and God co-exist peacefully rather than partaking of talk and action as Christians seem to like to do.

You see, the abuse I suffered increasingly over a four-year period was not physical. It was psychological, spiritual, and personal. It slammed me right at the hinge of my faith and snapped a fair few choice ligaments.

At the centre of the horror stands a man who still haunts my dreams, telling me I will never be sufficient, in that absolutely convinced voice of his that will permit no argument. It came as a surprise when he stepped in to lead a loose prayer group I had been involved with, yet he took the reins and set off at a gallop. I cannot call him a pastor, for he was never that.

He meant it well. Of that I have no doubt. It's just that he seemed perpetually unable and unwilling to consider the viewpoints of others, or that he might be wrong in his assessments of the miserable flock he had been given. Any disagreement at all, no matter how slight, was met with anger like a brick wall. No, let me rephrase that. Like the Great Wall of China, coming at you on the back of a hundred tanks. We either gave in and agreed, or remained stubborn and received a thorough verbal shredding. Me being the rather hard-headed type, I ended up getting hammered often, at times to the point of screaming.

The matters we disagreed on? I've forgotten most of them. They were probably minor. But one thing that came up again and again was the direction taken in the music. We were the kind of group who didn't like to plan out how many times to sing a song or its verses or chorus or bridge or instrumentals, or even which songs to sing. We'd just start into it and reach into the Spirit inside us for guidance on where we felt it should go next. If you're not familiar with that practice, don't weird out on me, it's called free worship and it can be a lot of fun, even making up spontaneous songs on the spot.

Well, you guessed it. We disagreed on just where the Spirit was leading us. I had to learn to quash my own sense of listening in favour of the leader's. Did I mention my position was actually the worship leader? Yeah. It got tricky. Often. Many, many times, too often to count, I would lead a song in one direction, only to be stopped short and admonished for hearing wrong - and this in front of everyone in the meeting. The meetings were never large, but it gouged my soul nonetheless. He taught that every note we played had to be guided by the Spirit - and not only that, but it had to match up to what he believed the Spirit was saying. So an incredible heavy stiffness and uncertainty came into every note of our worship. I never knew when I was going to be right or wrong, commended or berated.

All the while, I was trying to convince myself that he was right and I was wrong, as it was the only way to go on. I have not trusted myself to attempt free worship since leaving that group. Since free worship was the source of inspiration for my songwriting, guess what? I haven't written any songs since then either. Oh yeah, and I've pretty much stopped playing the guitar. While in Ireland I took up the bodhran, a nice, safe percussion instrument without the necessity for leadership - just spicing things up, which suits me fine.

More next Monday. Quicklink to part 2 here. In the meantime, I sure would appreciate some virtual hugs.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Rural Bavaria

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For a country with only a little more land area than my own and twenty times the population, it has always surprised me that there is so much open country in Germany—where the silence is so heavy you can feel it, and the pace of life is slow and settled. This can be explained in part by the presence of apartment blocks even in rural villages, and of course the high density of the cities.

Country folks speak different dialects to city folks; they often travel far for school and work, and the young people move out when it comes time to take up tertiary study. A transport network of occasional buses links up the tiny townships with their little supermarkets, fire departments, and primary schools.

The larger villages also offer amenities along their tiny main streets: perhaps a baker, a butcher, a hairdresser, a driving school, and most likely a restaurant or two of the type where retired farmers are likely to spend the day nursing a pint of local beer and talking politics. The food available in such establishments is simple, filling and good value—even if it can be on the heavy side with its dumplings and gravies.

Cycling from village to village is a singular experience in Bavaria, as the edge of the settlement is clearly defined: one minute you’re passing tall housing blocks, and the next you’re in amidst the farmer’s fields with nary a soul in sight.

In the summer, the dry heat wafts up from the reflecting earth, and fields of corn and hay ripple in the breeze while dark conifer forests loom beyond the warm haze. Village dwellers can be found fishing in tiny lakes and walking their dogs on farm tracks between the fields, dotted here and there with a pilgrim’s cross or tiny chapel shrine to a saint. The hills of Bavaria are gentle, providing an easy walk for hot days.

In winter, blankets of snow intensify the silence until it becomes almost a personality in its own right. Fresh-tilled soil soon freezes solid. Out the window, the forest trees and the icy fields turn the world into a black and white movie, and you could easily believe you’ve travelled back a hundred years in time.

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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

On Parking

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rainy day, rainbow haze
parked at the jetty.
green waves breaking
on shelly beach and concrete walls.
clarity of the hills beyond the channel
shifts to falling water
Others park here, sitting, watching.
cars as offices, their windows fogged
Proud seagulls preen atop lampposts
outrigger canoes slice water
while slanting rain
wraps islands in mystery
Day’s end glows
and behind, in the west
blue skies beckon
then the moment is gone
dimness falls
I will need headlights to get home again
but first I will sit here a while longer
absorbing the ocean
its last reflections of sungleam
in the clearing sky
as rainstorms move out across the gulf
clouds dragging thick straight tendrils
that rush to the waves
and the seabirds wheeling above
who catch the light that remains

Sunday, 27 June 2010

On Being Happy

Sometimes I think I'm the luckiest girl in the world.

However, that didn't stop me from spilling cold tea all over myself just as I was formulating that sentence. The cup was fuller than I thought it was, you see.

Anyway. Sure I'm lucky. I live in New Zealand. People say we're not patriotic, but have you seen the proportion of locals wearing a touristy T-shirt? I say we just show it differently.

I get to sit here in my eagle's nest room, the main road traffic swinging around behind me, the ocean mostly visible ahead unless it's raining quite severely - it may be 5km to the beach as the crow flies, but it's near enough to catch the variations in the water's tone: icy green to deep turquoise to winter grey to bright green - and I get to work for my living at my own pace and whim, while also pursuing the author and publisher type passions.

It may be cold - the house is not insulated or heated - and often it may seem too silent, though thank goodness for my flatmates. There may be bugs and ants and stiff windows and doors and a scratchy phone line and a huge power bill in winter, but somehow none of that matters. I'm lucky to have it, yeah, and the mortgage too I guess, because not everyone can just walk in and get one.

Missing Dad is the thorn in my bliss. It's been nearly a year now. A year in heaven already. Wow. I hope he's enjoying it. My oldest friend is certain he'll be arguing theology with God. I wouldn't put it past him. Mum dreamed he'd been put in charge of a city up there. Oh yeah. That'll suit just fine.

I get to sit here. Write. Be at peace with the world. And dream of other places, real and imagined. So I'm happy. In my own way. In spite of the thorns of loss and past trauma. Nothing lasts forever, does it...

So what is it that makes you happy?

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Rangitoto Island: Sleeping Volcano

By far the largest—and youngest— in the Auckland volcanic region, Rangitoto sits at the gateway to the city and is visible from any position high enough. It’s a classic shield-shaped volcano where the lava pouring out built up into an island, high and steep in the centre, low and flat at the edges, and circular in shape.

It is said to have erupted around 600 years ago, which is not long in volcanic terms. Motutapu is its immediate island neighbour, separated only by a few metres of causeway, but is not volcanic—it was there a long time before.

Rangitoto is a cliché of sorts in Auckland, an oft-photographed icon, yet so few tourists or locals visit its shores. That is a day trip very much worth doing: a short ferry ride from the city deposits you at a solitary wharf, and a couple of hours walking (or a ride on the tractor wagon if you want to cheat) will get you to the top, where you will be rewarded with a fantastic 360° view of the Hauraki Gulf, its islands, and the city of Auckland, which, though huge, is distinctly reduced by viewing it from the summit of a mountain.



Due to its young nature, there is no real soil on the island—merely decomposed debris lodged in the cracks between the lava. Hence the forest too is young, and sparse in places. There are even fields of bare volcanic rock that make you think you’re on another planet. Also, there are caves in the lava on the flanks of the hill as it becomes steeper towards the top: created by air bubbles in liquid rock which then solidified, leaving these irregular open spaces.

Ships pass by in the Rangitoto Channel to Auckland’s container wharves, and on summer evenings the cruise ships leave town by the same route, all lit up like Christmas trees, and dwarfed by the 260-metre volcano.

Always there, always brooding, often with a cloud darkening its top in otherwise clear skies—it is difficult to describe what Rangitoto means to a local who’s grown up in its shadow. A marvel of nature, definitely. A sleeping threat, perhaps. A symbol of home, for sure.

In case you missed it last year, here's my video of a visit there...


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Auckland in the rain

This was written a few weeks back. It's been drier lately!


amphibious nature

winter has struck
water has invaded
city streets deluged
gutters are rivers

shiny leaves float
on sidewalk brick
yellows and reds
gleam of day

puddles at corners
wind-wrecked umbrellas
like broken wings
of skin-soaked creatures

awnings leak cascades
open crossroads beckon
with square waterfalls
from murky clouds

get thee home
says raspy throat
my feet obey
through urban canyons

hallelujah! a bus
no granted fact
haul me homeward
through stubborn downpour

rain gives way
to lightened sky
return to dry
sated earth sings

Monday, 21 June 2010

On Being Single

There's that word again. Single. As if it was a disease or something. Just as well I don't look my age, or I'd be getting a lot more of those sympathetic glances that hurt more than they help.

I was going to say it came about through something-or-other, but that doesn't work, because I've never been anything else but single, barring a couple of long-distance relationships that didn't really come up to scratch. So it can't have "come about" at all. Although, and I'm certain of this, it has been sustained by a factor or two, such as spending seven years of my twenties in Germany, where there was a shocking dearth of nice guys who weren't already taken.

I admit, I had three proposals while I was there: from an old man, a mental patient, and an illegal immigrant. I shall be so bold as to say I don't think any of those count.

Of course one is never prevented from standing on the beach if one is alone, nor other beautiful things. I write, and beat my bodhran, and make sticky chocolate pudding, and share my bed with the cat.

But occasionally, this state of constant aloneness frustrates me. I twitch and pace and fidget and eat chocolate and go shopping when I don't really need to and let my mother talk me into expensive holidays, although that has always ended up to be a good thing so far.

It doesn't help that I work at home in both of my chosen careers and never have to leave the house except to fetch food and go to church. I spend nearly all my time in church writing stories, by the way; I find the atmosphere very inspirational, to say the least. Or is it that there are no distractions there as there always are at home?

There's always God, I suppose. He's around here somewhere. Doesn't go away, and all that. But I don't bother him much. We just enjoy a companionable silence, for the most part, and I think I have an understanding with him that it's okay.

I am well aware there are definite advantages to the singleness thing, and I enjoy them to the full. Particularly the no-kids thing. It may not last forever, and I would not want it to, but I want to make the most of this state of relative freedom to run after dreams and blog in the middle of the night and sleep at odd hours because I can. It's wonderful.

Pretty much all of my best friends are of the online type, that is, they do not live in the same country as me. If you're reading this, chances are you're one of them.

Every email, every @reply tweet, every comment on a blog or Facebook, is like a handshake or a steady look in the eyes or a high five.

So don't be a stranger. Leave me a virtual mark of your presence in my life. What do you have to say about singleness?

Friday, 18 June 2010

Basics 5: Grace's Life

...the education
After rampant curiosity forced her mother to teach her to read at a preposterously young age (the first written word emerged at 18 months and it was the name of her godfather Norman) there really wasn't much point in going to school to start all over again. Thus began a childhood filled with books: reading the Narnia series alone at age five and beginning John White's epic Tower of Geburah series with a three-day 600-page marathon just shy of her seventh birthday. Trips to the library abounded, as did other trips to all manner of fascinating places where people invariably asked why she wasn't in school. Add a good dose of Stephen Lawhead novels, Star Trek in all of its forms, follow that up with a Bachelor of Arts at Auckland University and then a Graduate Diploma in Translation Studies, and you have a pretty good picture.

...the online life
Grace was introduced to the precursors of the Internet back in the days of DOS and Bulletin Board Systems, then had a crash course at university and has never looked back since. She has had about two dozen email addresses, one dozen homepages, and has built many pages for other people, as well as dozens of social media profiles, most of which now lie dormant. Her favoured time-wasters are now Twitter and Facebook, with Shoutlife a close third.

However, that is not where the bulk of the action occurs. As we have already mentioned, there is the Lost Genre Guild, and also the American Christian Fiction Writers (she still can't completely understand why she joined an organisation with "American" in the title), the Christian Fiction Review Blog, the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour, the Anomaly forum at WhereTheMapEnds, and regular contributions at the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. In other writing, she writes a sometimes-regular travel column called Kiwi Come Home at the Colorado City News, in which she describes various places she's been.


...the offline life
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, birth having allegedly been brought on by the sound effects in Space Odyssey 2001, Grace left for London, England, at the tender age of six months. For two years she followed her parents on their gallivants through Britain, France and Germany, and gained a persistent hint of a British accent while learning to speak. The return to New Zealand was followed by the addition of a brother and the abovementioned educational exploits.
During her high school and university years Grace entertained notions of musicality and was involved in the Elkanah Music School for a number of years. She formed bands and played at times in church. After university, she got a very bad case of itchy feet and ran off to Germany, where she proceeded to find a job with the police and stayed for seven years, during which time she lived in a kitchen for a while and later in an 800 year old house with wonky walls, was involved in a church movement and band, security for the Pope, car thief investigations, prayer meetings in a Turkish delicatessen, owned four pet rats, a three-legged cat and a normal one. Some of the songs she wrote at that time were recorded live and rough with the band and can be heard here, here, here, here, here and here. She managed to make a lot of enemies by following her heart and what she believed was right. After this caused the quota of friends to become too low to handle, she decided to go home the long way: five months in Ireland and two in an epic road-plane-train trip across the USA to meet a whole lot of writer friends. You can read about that trip here: http://frankcreed.com/Newsletter/0109/p6.html (right hand side) and also at the YouTube and blog sites listed above.

Grace speaks good German, passable French, try-hard Maori, and a very little Latin. After playing the guitar seriously for about 15 years, she then switched to the bodhran, because it's fun to hit things. She is owned by a cat, has three housemates who are generous with their baking, and an ancient Toyota Corona pimped up with bathroom paint. Her music of choice is ambient electronica and science fiction movie soundtracks. She goes to Glenfield Presbyterian Church, and spends most of her time there writing, for which she has the express approval and encouragement of a Respected Worship Leader, so nyah.

These days she spends most of her time in her hilltop house in Glenfield, looking at the ocean and dividing her hours between freelance translation work, to pay the bills, and entrepreneurial publishing, which at this writing has yet to earn a bean. But you never know.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Balbriggan Town

The name alone conjures up memories of the sweet summer I spent there, scribbling in a room with a sea view. It proved easy enough to arrange accommodation in Ireland, even from another country, and that is how I ended up in Balbriggan.

The town is about 45 minutes north of Dublin by commuter train, though there is no longer much of a gap between the sprawling city suburbs and the satellite communities. It has always been a fishing village, but now it serves also as a home for city workers.

I believe it has a population of about 20,000—sharply growing—and there’s one hotel, several pubs and restaurants along the main street, four supermarkets, and a good number of suburbs itself. In suburban Ireland, housing is arranged in estates where each street has the same name. For example, the Clonuske estate has Clonuske Park, Clonuske Drive, Clonuske Close, Clonuske Rise, and Clonuske Green. It was certainly confusing at first!

The houses themselves are joined wall-to-wall more often than not—it is the finer homes that stand alone—and they often have brightly-coloured doors and window-frames in otherwise plain facades of brick and plaster.

Balbriggan faces the Irish Sea, looking towards Wales, as did my window. The beach is never far away in this town, and once there, you can walk for miles to the north along tiny coastal tracks that may get a bit rugged and adventurous in places. Once I encountered a herd of cows who had trampled down their fence and escaped onto the beach. They proceeded to enter a housing estate, where local boys kept them in check until the farmer was called.

The sound of the green trains is often heard, whizzing by towards Drogheda, or the blue ones that go to Belfast. And when the sun sets over the little hills at the western horizon, the colours rise up in the eastern sky, followed by the night—and I wrote on and finished a novel or two that summer, in that little room in little old Balbriggan.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Random Wednesday Poetry

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coming of the night

the evening shade slips across the gentle hills
the higglety-pigglety houses, the treetops
the skyscrapers
the volcanos

each place the sun rests its final kiss
is set aglow in golden tones
before the darkness creeps in
and the sea takes on its night hue

russet shining grasslands
on the islands
deepening texture of the forest
now touched by the fingers of the dusk

eastern clouds reflect the sunset glory
wisps of pink in an apricot sky
wink! the sun reflects from an apartment block window
before the shadow consumes the thirtieth floor

lights blink on across the city
the sky is still red and grey
matching the oak tree’s leaves and bark
as day surrenders to blissful rest

and inside, the lamps go on
work goes on as soft rain appears
the cat’s whiskers twitch in her tight curled sleep
and home is a wonderful place to be.


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Sunday, 13 June 2010

On Blogging

Join me for a coffee? Or in this case, a hot chocolate that is truly a work of art, courtesy of the Tui Coffee Lounge in Paeroa, the generally accepted halfway point on a journey from Auckland to Tauranga...

New house. Been here a couple months now.

New week. Yup, that's what they call Monday.

New approach. Time for one of those on this blog. It's been neglected far too much, considering all the people that want to read it - so my stats say - and so I'm trying for a new beginning.

Once a week the post will likely be my travel article which also appears in the Colorado City News. This could be on pretty much any place I've been to and have a notion to write about, accompanied by hack photography and sometimes a video.

Other than that, there are a bunch of great ideas I've seen other bloggers (and authors) put to good use - such as the Reading List and Scribbler's Scoreboard (thanks Fred for those) in which I shall summarise writing activity, submissions of short stories, progress on my novels, etc. I guess I will do something similar for the publishing side of what I do, which will be a cross-post at the Splashdown Books blog.

And then there's that other stuff, the stuff to write "just because", the random poems (with many thanks to Chila for the prodding!), the "thinky things" (here's looking at you, Cat), and whatever else may occur to me.

Anyway, thanks for being here and coming along for the ride. I wonder where it'll take us?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Basics 4: Grace as Activist and Star

...the activist
Grace is the newsgatherer for the Lost Genre Guild, a gathering place for all things to do with Christian speculative fiction. The blog is usually posted three times a week and includes member news, ezine updates, new releases, contests, free stuff, tips for writers and more. She is of the firm belief that independent publishing is the way of the future and the immediate answer to the problem of Christian speculative fiction getting its foot in the door. The Lost Genre Guild is a loose group of writers, readers, reviewers, artists and publishers who discuss all manner of relevant topics in a mailing list. If you want to join (and you really should--if you've read this far you must be just the type!) then just get in touch with Grace.

She also makes a point of reviewing all the Christian spec-fic books she can get her hands on at http://splashdownreviews.blogspot.com.


...the star
Interviews and appearances of Grace abound all over the Web. From blog visits to newspaper articles, radio and TV, it's all there. Let's take a look.

(Audio) Interview on New Zealand's Radio Rhema, November 2007 (scroll down)

(Audio) Interview with Darryl Sloan in Ireland, June 2008
(Video) Appearance on North Dakota TV, November 2008
Interview with the Writing Examiner, November 2009
Interview with the Writing Career Coach, November 2009
Interview with Jeff Gerke at WhereTheMapEnds, February 2010
Interview with T.W. Ambrose at Digital Dragon Magazine, February 2010 (PDF, see page 17)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

More on that tall ship

It was Captain James Cook who named many places in New Zealand on his tour of discovery, even if some names are rather obvious, as in the case of the Bay of Islands. But no one can deny it fits. A beloved travel destination for Kiwis and tourists alike, the area is located in the Far North--which means it is usually several degrees warmer than the whole country to the south.

The town of Russell was the nation's first capital, and Paihia across the bay is a similarly old settlement. Nearby Waitangi is held as the cradle of our country, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, establishing nationhood in 1840.

The thing to do in the Bay is to get on the water and get visiting those islands. One way to do so is on the tall ship R. Tucker Thompson, a replica of a schooner from the 1700's. It's not the cheapest of the boat trips on offer, but is definitely one of the most evocative, and worth it when one considers that the money paid by day-trippers helps finance life learning journeys for young people at other times.

There's nothing quite like zipping along on the waves under sail, no sound but the water lapping against the hull and the occasional flap of the canvas. No motor breaks the calm except when making close approaches to land. And land we do: depending on the direction of the wind, the crew select a sheltered cove in one of the islands to set us down for a romp before lunch.

The islands scattered across the Bay vary greatly in size and shape. The one we landed on offers a long grassy slope leading up to a summit with grand views of the mainland, the open sea, and of course, more islands. Returning to the beach, I entered the water and snorkelled for a time, searching for a glimpse of a fish or two--but found only a school of two-inchers in silver. I swam through them and let them tickle my fingers, keeping an eye on the strong currents around the rocks.

Back on the ship, lunch was served, an elegant affair of grilled chicken with salad and fresh bread. After that, I dived off the deck into the water a number of times before we had to hoist anchor.

On this ship, participation is desired: you can raise sails, climb the mast, and steer the ship. It's great to get your hands on the ropes and feel something like a sailor of three hundred years ago. The friendly crew and delectable scenery make this outing a memory for a lifetime.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Friday, 4 June 2010

Basics 3: Grace the Publisher

...the publisher
Splashdown Books is an independent publisher founded by Grace Bridges to provide a channel for the many inspirational science fiction and fantasy manuscripts she comes across as she travels the interwebs. In order to submit a manuscript, authors are asked to request a critique swap. Those having agents need not apply, because they have a large advantage already. We're out to help the little guys. Our titles so far:

The Muse by Fred Warren - Available here (ISBN 978-0986451713)
Stan Marino needs a muse. He's written himself into a corner...again. A shot of inspiration is all he needs to finish his story ...where is he going to find it? What Stan doesn't know: Inspiration has found him. And it's about to take over his life. Ripped from reality, he must lead a band of lost souls in a life-or-death battle with a merciless enemy. Stan has found his muse, but will he survive it?

Upcoming:
The Duke's Handmaid by Caprice Hokstad
Slavery...loyalty. Torture...honor. Betrayal...selflessness. All the young orphan wanted was security in a world that destroyed her family and left her despised and rejected. Can the simple farmgirl find a new family through voluntary enslavement to the duke's household? Crafted in a highly precise writing style so smooth it slips right from the page into your imagination, this fantastical storyworld examines timeless social issues that inform global justice today.

Tales of the Dim Knight by Adam and Andrea Graham
Mild-mannered janitor and superhero fanboy Dave Johnson gets all his wishes at once when an alien symbiot gives him supernatural powers. But what's he to do with them? Follow his laugh-a-minute progress as he fights crime and corruption while trying to keep his family together and avoid being sued for copyright infringement.

Alpha Redemption by P.A. Baines
When Brett loses everything in a tragic accident, he gladly accepts an invitation to take part in a prototype speed-of-light trip to Alpha Centauri, knowing that he may not survive. His only companion is the ship's on-board computer, Jay. At first he finds Jay an annoyance but, as time passes, the two become friends. With the voyage drawing to a close, Jay develops a sense of self-awareness and a belief in God. When it becomes clear that they cannot both survive the return trip, one of them must make the ultimate sacrifice. 

Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Caprice Hokstad (Sequel to The Duke's Handmaid)
In a last-ditch effort to find his missing son, Duke Vahn sends his most trusted servant to pose as a runaway slave in the hostile country of Ganluc. Meanwhile, the challenge he faces at home is no less daunting. This beautiful story is full of images: leadership by serving, ungrudging chivalry, and faithful romance.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Basics 2: Grace the Author

...the author
Grace began to pen her first science fiction tale at the age of eight, during a homeschooling exercise in which her father asked her to write a story based on a prompt. It was an epic space opera called "Zebra in the Future". Writing prompts are still known to have such effects today. At fourteen she wrote a novella based on a local urban legend surrounding secret tunnels in a hill called North Head in Auckland, New Zealand. Around that same time ideas formed for a virtual reality story which eventually became Faith Awakened.

That tale took the next fourteen years to form completely and be published. She was going to write the sequel immediately, but was interrupted by a vivid dream which became Legendary Space Pilgrims. After that, since she was in Ireland at the time, she proceeded to write her third novel about Dublin's future. Now at long last she has returned with a sigh of relief to Godspeed, the sequel to Faith Awakened, while working on multiple short stories in between, some of which have been published and can be found as follows:

Invasion at Wayfarer's Journal, February 2007
The whole world is terrified by lights from the sky. Emil just wishes they'd leave his city alone.

Second Site at Digital Dragon Magazine, August 2009
A psychology professor with a secret witnesses an unlikely paranormal encounter in his own office.

Zara's Quest at Digital Dragon Magazine, February 2010
A teenage space pilot seeks her brother on the planet where he vanished, risking all to find him.

Fungus Among Us at The Cross and Cosmos, March 2010 (PDF, see page 3)
An experiment in communication is underway in a spacelab. Who is the creature being observed?

and the ongoing serial Comet Born at Digital Dragon Magazine: part 1 is here.
A comet tail sweeps Earth's atmosphere, and the children born in that moment take their first breaths of its gases--with supernatural results.
(Just change the number 1 before the final dot in that link URL to get the chapters that follow. One per month from March 2010)

and in print:
The Night of the Gift in Forever Friends, 2008, available here An online version is available here.
Upcoming: Underground--Undersea in The Underground Anthology with Frank Creed et al.
Second Site is also to appear in Digital Dragon's first Best Of anthology. 

Friday, 21 May 2010

Basics 1: Who Is This Grace

Who is this person? In brief: Grace Bridges is a sci-fi author (Faith Awakened, 2007, and Legendary Space Pilgrims, coming soon) and owner of Splashdown Books, an independent publisher of inspirational sci-fi and fantasy at www.splashdownbooks.com. She's a Kiwi of Irish descent living in beautiful New Zealand, and a chocaholic cat-lovin' Trekkie, Jesus freak, repeat globetrotter, hack web designer, and all-round DIY gal who also takes care of the Lost Genre Guild blog.

But wait, there's more than that! Probably WAY more than you ever wanted to know, but hey, here goes... To be followed by further instalments in coming weeks.


...the books
Faith Awakened, 2007 - Go to book page - Available here (ISBN 978-0986451706)
A computer technician gets more than she bargains for when she plunges herself and her companions into virtual-reality cryogenic stasis to escape a raging virus.

Legendary Space Pilgrims, Coming Soon!
On a planet that has never seen the sun, a harvester hears a Voice from beyond. It's time to leave the oatfield. Mario and Caitlin escape the mind control of Planet Monday, following the Voice to unknown worlds where wonders and challenges await. Have you got what it takes...to be a legend?

CyberDublin, Coming...uh...After That!
Oodles rules the world. But when its global hyperweb network falls prey to sabotage, society spins towards chaos. In Dublin, the heart of the fallen cyberworld, an orphan rebel and her housemates face a reality far less virtual than they're used to.

Sequels are in progress for all three, in the same order: 

Godspeed: If you could end world hunger, you'd do it, right? What if governmental experiments caused your miracle fertiliser to become a weapon of mass destruction? Meet Naomi, the Belfast biologist forced to run from her own creation. 

Independence Monday: Mario, Caitlin and Irina travel on to the planet Sancta where they must prepare themselves to do battle with the evil Baxter government of Planet Monday and free the enslaved population as the Voice commands. (Currently this sentence is all that exists of this story)

Space Brain: An orbiting artificial intelligence put out of commission by the Oodles sabotage finally figures out what happened and begins to take action of its own devising. Back in Dublin, Rachel and her friends find themselves at the forefront of human resistance to the deadly brain from space. (Likewise, that's all there is right now)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider, by Ellen C. Maze

It was with some trepidation that I opened my first ever vampire book this weekend. But I couldn't help asking to be involved in reviewing it, due to the sheer amount of noise and success surrounding this particular book.

Beth Rider is an author with a problem when a race of bloodsuckers comes after her for the tale she told in her book. But one pursuer asks why, taking her into his protection - throwing his people into the chaos of the chase.

The major idea here is the correlation of modern vampires to Biblical beings. Following that, it reads like a parable for those who have eyes to see it: the vamps don't need to suck blood or be violent, but they do it to satiate their lust.

I particularly liked the aspect of metafiction - the story within the story. Although we never get to find out what happens in the book Beth wrote (but I hear that's coming out someday for real!), its events and their effects on the vamps are a large part of the plot.

Strangely, it is the character of Beth Rider we see the least of in terms of her internal personality. She is strong in her faith and remarkably unruffled even in the most alarming of situations. Michael Stone on the other hand, the pursuer-turned-protector, is drawn in great detail and depth in the scenes in which he appears.

The plot struck me as very unusual and imaginative. I couldn't tell you another book with a final victory anywhere near similar to this. I'm only sorry there wasn't another round of copyedits to fix the typos and comma use - but those aren't significant enough to spoil a good read.

In all - well done, Ellen Maze. I like the way your brain works. You've heard of "outside the box" - here, there is no box.

Friday, 9 April 2010

The Muse: Making Movies

Despite my limited technical skills and computer gear, I've always been fascinated with the idea of making movies. So I set out once again to make a movie for a book advertisement, using only a point-and-shoot camera (albeit a slightly better one bought for the occasion) and a five-year-old editing program with a tendency to crash.

As you know from yesterday's post, I already had the main actor, Andrew. He turned out to have out of this world skills in an area he'd previously done nothing in! Great for us :) So I just needed to find a couple more people. Another housemate, Steph, stood in for Jilly the vampire author, and I was able to recruit Phil on the Internet (don't worry, we go way back!) to be the sci-fi author. He recorded his own scenes to send me by email.

The perfect finishing touch was the fairy princess, also an inhabitant of the house where I lived last year, which also happened to be very handy to a beautiful big forest.

Here's the finished trailer, followed by the credits reel:






Check out these member blogs this week for more info.



Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Muse: Cover Design

I used to be a great artist. Not in the sense of being great, no way, but in the sense that I loved it and used to doodle all the time - in my schoolbooks, when I was supposed to be writing essays or doing sums or whatever, I peopled the margins of my pages with fanciful images and also spent a good deal of time putting paintbrush to paper. That has carried over to graphic design and photography, and hopefully my results will continue to improve.

Anyway. Once it was settled that I was going to publish Fred's book, we began to cast about for a suitable cover idea. I wanted something striking and unique, and for that purpose a black background is always pretty good.

I messed around until I had a suitably spooky glowy text and spirally thing which I somehow got out of one of the effects in my ten year old graphics program. Yep, 10 years old and counting, and it still does everything I want it to.

Next I really wanted a picture of Stan, the main character. But who could it be? The answer turned out to be quite close to home, as I ended up photographing none other than my own brother when he came to town for a visit. My housemate at that time happens to own a wonderful fantasy sword, and things just came together after that. Over there you see one pic of many taken during that photo shoot. I was up on the veranda with the camera, and Andrew was down on the driveway so I could get that oblique angle. The black sheet was an aid to later pasting "Stan" onto my mostly black background.

All this of course in consultation with Fred. It's his book and he ought to like the cover, right? :)


Here's the final result a little larger:




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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Inside Publishing: The Soundtrack for The Muse

There's a wonderful story behind the soundtrack of this novel. I have always loved books with songs that belong to them, and it's an idea which has not been exploited to its fullest potential - I feel. Anyway, as soon as Fred was contracted to publish The Muse with Splashdown, I went on the hunt for a suitable musical accompaniment.

It didn't take much thinking to go straight to Shoutlife. I already knew Clank a.k.a. Brian from England, whose sounds I first heard on Frank Creed's book trailer - and later I commissioned a couple of tracks from him myself, but that's off topic :) So back I went to the instrumental category. Just a few clicks later I stumbled upon Eleon a.k.a. Mike from Texas and I knew we'd found our man. I proposed the idea to him and explained the purpose.

Mike was enthusiastic - always a good sign - and very promptly delivered exactly what we needed. The soundtrack for The Muse provided an inspirational backdrop for much of the work needing done on the book.

What's that you say? I can hardly hear you over the music! Oh! Of course you want to hear it! Here ya go:


You can also go to http://virb.com/eleonmusic for more of Mike's great music. I admit, I've become quite the fan!

In time things came together to create the book trailer using this very piece of music, but there'll be more on that another day. Watch this space!

Check out these member blogs this week for more info.