In Mission to New Earth, Earth’s overpopulation and dwindling resources force the United Earth Space Agency to ramp up exploration of new planets for a possible new home. As Sara Grenard and her team prepare for launch, are they ready for the one-way trip? Will they be in time?
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1. Why do you write sci-fi romance and mystery?
I love a good mystery, and adventures in space have intrigued me since Star Wars.
2. What was your attitude towards reading when you were a kid?
Loved it. Couldn’t get enough books, and I hoarded the ones I had. I used my babysitting money to buy books instead of make-up,like my girlfriends.
3. Thinking about the stuff you’ve written, who’s your favorite character and why?
Jessie, in my first published novel Switched. She’s quirky, smart alecky, I wish I could come up with her quips in real life. She’s conscious of being overweight (though not that much). She’s insecure yet more capable than she thinks.
4. What literary character are you most like and why?
Jane Eyre: she’s quiet and unassuming, yet caring. I’d rather be Lara Croft.
5. What are three things on your bucket list?
Take an Alaskan cruise
See Scotland/Ireland/Wales, England too
Learn Dutch so I can read about my ancestors
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I like traveling – especially roadtrips. I take a lot of them, and often for random reasons:
I went to Detroit for a couple days last month just so I could pop into John King Used Books and eat delicious shawarmas and hummus at my favorite Dearborn Middle Eastern restaurant.
For spring break 2016, we detoured through Tulsa, Oklahoma, simply because I wanted to see what was there (answer: the Center of the Universe and nothing else).
Last summer, I drove up to Nipigon, Ontario, because I wanted to see the bridge that had collapsed.
Summer 2014, we detoured through Medicine Hat, Alberta, because I liked the name.
I plan on heading over to Alliance, Nebraska, in the next couple weeks because I need to check out Carhenge.
So, basically, I am the queen of random roadtrips.
Heaven is watching the sunset on Lake Superior from a secluded cabin in the woods
Yet when I was up in the UP of Michigan last month (different trip from the Detroit one), while I was driving up through Wisconsin I remembered that episode of That 70s Show where the gang drove to Canada for a beer run. From Wisconsin – which doesn’t share a border with Canada (including water ones).
I checked and it’s about 3-5 hours to drive from northern Wisconsin to Canada (either Grand Portage convenience stores north of Duluth or Sault St. Marie). It’s 5+ from southeast Wisconsin (down near Chicago) to Windsor. Regardless of where in the state they live, driving from Wisconsin to Canada just for beer seems like a lot of effort – and this is coming from someone who wants to go to Flin Flon, Manitoba, and Truth and Consequence, New Mexico, simply because of the towns’ names.
Wouldn’t it have been easier and cheaper just to bribe someone in their town to buy them beer?
My son loves mythology, so of course he’s a huge fan of this series. I try to read what he’s reading so we can discuss it, so I picked up the first book after we watched the movie. And then I binge-read the first series over the course of a weekend. When he started reading the first book of the second series, I binge-read all those too.
The basic premise is that Greek gods and goddesses (and Roman god and goddesses, in the second series) have a hard time keeping it in their pants and therefore there are a ton of demigods running around – half mortal, half immortal. Monsters are attracted to them and want to kill them, so there’s a place they can go – Camp Half-Blood (Greek) and Camp Jupiter (Roman) – where they’re safe from monsters. The gods then send them on quests, which form the plots of the books.
Overall, they’re good books. From a parent perspective, they’re a good read for kids because there’s no bad language or sex (although there is a TON of violence, which I’ll get to in a bit). The characters age but don’t get all emo-whiny on us like in Harry Potter. For the most part, they use teamwork and build each other up, rather than letting divisions come between them or tear each other down with insults and backstabbing (at least the main core of characters; some of the other characters aren’t so savory).
From a reader’s perspective, the plots are solid, although they tend to get kinda monotonous over time; with ten books, some of the quests and monster fights blur together. And sometimes it feels like Riordan is scraping the barrel with some of the monsters and minor Greek and Roman personalities he digs up. But all the characters have their own unique personalities (impressive, considering how many there are) without coming across as stereotypes.
That said, I had a serious problem with how much violence there was in these books.
“Hey look, a monster.”
“Maybe we should talk first?”
“No, let’s just kill it.”
Even Annabeth, who was the daughter of Athena, would trick monsters and then kill them. Aphrodite’s daughter, Piper, would use her charm on monsters and then kill them. Percy, son of Poseidon, and Jason, son of Jupiter, would just go straight for the kill. Even when the monsters showed that they could be allies (Tyson the cyclops, Bob the Titan), the protocol was to kill first and ask questions later.
When the kids were at their camps, they spent a lot of time training for war. And when on their quests and when fighting their wars, characters died, not just monsters. The main villains – the Titans and the giants – never wanted to negotiate, so the only response was only violence and fighting to stop them, which I really didn’t like. Considering how much posturing goes on with various world leaders, I think kids need books that show peaceful solutions when two sides disagree instead of fighting. They need books that show nuanced villains rather than ones that are automatically bad just because they happen to be [insert species/race/whatever].
My kid wants me to write him a series of books about a kid who time travels, solving mysteries, and I can guarantee that my main character will solve problems with his words, not his sword.
The accompanying song, “I’ll Follow You,” is about supporting someone you love, and that’s a major theme in the Percy Jackson books. There’s the obvious plot where Percy follows his girlfriend to literal Hell because he doesn’t want her to have to experience it alone, but that love the characters have for each other shines throughout the whole series. In fact, that’s one of Percy’s weaknesses – he’s too loyal to his friends. Despite the violence of the stories, this love and support for each other is a powerful message that I think kids need more of in what they read.
If you’ve read these books, what are your thoughts on them? Do you agree with my views, or did you interpret them differently? Let me know in the comments!
Today’s Friday Five focus is Jes Sanders, author of sci-fi short stories, novellas, and novels,
Jes had an amazing teacher in 6th Grade: Mr. Giglio (pronounced ‘Jillio’), Mt. Helix Elementary, San Diego. He introduced him to War of the Worlds, The White Mountains, and Taran Wanderer, and inspired him to write. Then life happened. Some decades and a family later, he finds himself in a completely unrelated career. But, as his favorite author, Colum McCann says, “Come song, anyway.” He has stories in him that want to get out, and he is enjoying discovering all this endeavor has to offer.
His latest work, The Last Jubali, is an epic sci-fi tale. World War II has just ended, but it was merely a means to a greater attack.
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1. If you could pick just one book to read for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
If left on an island, I would probably take Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle with me. This book has it all: Great writing, social commentary, science fiction, cynicism, hope, family tension, weird religion. It’s just great!
2. Where do your inspiration and ideas for your stories come from?
For The Last Jubali, the inspiration came from two places. The first seed of the idea was a simple question: What if folklore and folk magic, that every culture has grown up with, was held to be absolutely real – and science was held in great suspicion? What if folk magic was regulated? What if science was either laughed at or persecuted?
The second seed of The Last Jubali came from a mental connection that I made between Dark Matter and Einstein’s Unified Field Theory. What if the link between electromagnetism and gravity could never be solved because there was a fifth force missing form the equation? What if this fifth force resided in a universe next to ours, and dark matter is simple the shadow of this force on our universe? And if somebody, a “psyentist,” were to master this force, they could control gravity as well as electromagnetism.
3. What do you want your tombstone to say?
My tombstone should read, “Well, that was embarrassing.”
4. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? How do you deal with this?
I really struggle with romantic dialogue. I only have a few characters who are in love. One friend told me that my dialogue read like a romance novel. Ouch! But I am learning how to have my characters speak more naturally.
5. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that you think they need to know?
Every now and then, science fiction can rise above genre writing. Genre is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But, yes, even sci-fi can sometimes expand our understanding of the human condition, or contribute to the artistic landscape. I think of A Canticle for Liebowitz, for example. I don’t claim at all to be at this level, but it’s what I aspire to.
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The Last Jubali is currently available through Amazon.
I taught high school English for two years and a high school job and life skills class for another year. I also did a year long school social work internship in an elementary school and an alternative junior high/high school. And in the next few weeks, I’ll be (hopefully!) starting a job as a counselor at a residential facility for adjudicated teens (ie, court-ordered). So, I know a thing or two about being in the classroom.
There’s all kinds of stuff out there, from books to movies, about feel good, inspirational stories in the classroom. Michelle Pfeiffer inspired poor gangsta kids to care! Jaime Escalante (who actually is one of my heroes) taught poor gangsta kids calculus! Sister Whoopie Goldberg inspired poor gangsta kids to love life through singing!
Yeah, teachers and faculty do teach and inspire kids every day. Lots of our kids are success stories, like a student in my remedial reading class who went on to college. But for every kid that succeeds, there’s a line behind him of kids who either don’t succeed (but don’t fail), or who do fail. And a lot of times, teachers don’t even know it because that kid we’ve been trying to help leaves our lives, leaving us to worry and wonder what happened.
And that’s what inspired my short story “Slipping Through the Cracks,” which is in my short story collection Us, Together and also over on Medium.
It’s about a boy I had in my high school class, R, who told me one day that he didn’t know the alphabet. So I worked with him and he made great progress – and then he left. That was twelve years ago, and I sometimes wonder what happened to him. Did he find another teacher to help him continue to learn to read? Did he drop out of school to work in the fields with his family? Did he get deported back to Mexico?
I’ll never know, and as much as I might have wanted to give Alejandro in the story a happy ending, it wouldn’t be fair to R.
Six stories about the problems teenagers face, from relationships and unplanned pregnancy, to absent parents and poverty, loosely based on stories and students E.D. Martin encountered while teaching at-risk kids.
“The stories are easy to read, well-crafted, and deal with human issues in a sensitive way.”
I like to travel. A lot. And seeing as how I’m kinda poor, being a grad student and all, most of my domestic travel is by car.
That’s why I’m happy to report this milestone I hit this week:
Yep, that’s right – I hit 250,000 miles on my car!
It had about 130,000 when I got it in the spring of 2012, so that’s 120,000 miles in 5 years – an average of 24,000 miles per year.
A lot of it, of course, is due to commuting to my university, driving 125 miles roundtrip 2-4 times a week for the past couple years. But it’s also a couple trips to Canada every year, and California, and the East Coast, and everywhere in between. So far in 2017, for example, I’ve gone to India, San Diego (flying, not driving though), Georgia and the Carolinas, and Michigan – twice. That’s a lot of miles. 🙂
Google has a cool feature that plots your adventures on a timeline, and here’s what my US/Canada trips look like, starting in August 2013 (so excluding a roadtrip to New Orleans I took in March 2012). This summer, depending on my work schedule, I’m also heading to the Pacific Northwest and taking several small trips around the Midwest. And I’d love to get down to Mississippi to research the sequel to my novel Yours to Keep or Throw Aside (spoilers: it involves Aida in Andrew’s hometown). No matter where I end up going, though, I’m looking forward to adding more dots!
How’s your odometer looking? Any memorable trips you’ve taken or cool dots you’ve earned?
I’m not sure if it’s genetic, but I definitely inherited my dad’s wanderlust (he’s currently on a roadtrip to L.A. with an old friend, and I just got back from a random trip to Detroit solely taken to eat hummus and buy used books) and love of music.
As a kid, I remember him cranking his stereo whenever he was home, as well as dragging me and my younger brother to music festivals, like my hometown’s annual Blues Fest. And now I’ve become his concert buddy, accompanying him to a local music venue every couple months to see blues-rock artists that come through.
I’m not musically inclined, nor do I ever want to be on stage performing, so I find it interesting to imagine what it’s like being one of these acts, especially the opening bands, especially when no one’s ever heard of you. And that’s what gave me the inspiration for not only my short story “Not My Thing,” but several other stories about bands and concert goers that I’m about halfway through writing and plan to someday release as a collection.
One of the best compliments I got on “Not My Thing” was from a beta reader who said I nailed the details, from the two free drinks that are included in the contract, to the weird guy who’s a little too close to the stage and a little too involved with the song.
Upcoming stories in this collection include “The Best Night of Herb’s Life,” about an unassuming accountant who stumbles into some action, and “Hunting Johnny Cervantes,” about a washed-up guitar player who’s actually the devil. Stay tuned!
When The Dancing Freemasons embark on their first major tour, Jeff’s dreams of being a rock star have come true – until he can no longer connect with the music. One night after a show, he meets a woman who might be the one to get the music flowing again, but is the cost worth it?
I love classic Russian literature, especially the books where you think the author’s just being silly and then BAM he hits you with some profoundness that leaves you thinking about the book for weeks.
This week’s book is one of those books.
It follows this kid Samuel, whose life kinda sucks. He decides hey, screw it, and runs away from his crappy job, crappy motel room, and crappy life. He’s hungry, of course, so when he gets invited to a party by two random guys he of course eats all the food he’s offered – and falls in love with the hostess, of course. But she turns out to be kinda crazy, so he skips out on her. And then she turns out to be really crazy and sends a hitman after him, who ends up dying in a bathroom. The sheer absurdity of the story up until this point is very Gogolesque.
But then life comes back to Samuel, and shit gets real when you find out exactly what he’s trying to run from. And this is where the real genius of the writing comes in, because Poole presents a situation so tragic yet mundane that you can’t help but think that things won’t get better for Samuel, but you’re rooting for him just the same.
No spoilers here – just a recommendation to read one of the best books I’ve read in awhile.
This book pairs well with Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I’m sure you’ve heard “Another Brick in the Wall” on the radio ad nauseum, but have you ever listened to the whole album all the way through? It’s the struggle of a kid trying to overcome life – much like Samuel in Harder Than Rocks.
One of the settings in my novel Yours to Keep or Throw Aside is a bookstore, McKay’s, in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It’s where Andrew and Kasey, the two main characters, meet, and several scenes take place in its attached coffee shop.
While Asheville does have a downtown bookstore, I actually modeled McKay’s after the Books-A-Million I worked at while I was in college – not that the specific details of the store actually matter to the story, other than it has coffee, books, tables, and couches. I don’t think its baristas or employees even have names.
I stole the name from my favorite used bookstore, Edward McKay’s in Raleigh, NC. I probably spent way too much money there (is that even possible at a used bookstore?), but they had a wonderful selection of everything – lots of obscure titles that look great sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. When I was back in the Triangle in March, I may have spent an hour or two there, browsing the shelves and buying a couple bags of books.
AND NOW THEY’RE CLOSED FOREVER!!!!!
About a week or two ago, without any warning, they announced they’d permanently closed that store (although they still have a couple locations around the state).
Good news, however, in that MY McKay’s – my fictional one in Asheville – is still open, and it’ll even have a brief cameo in the sequel to Yours to Keep or Throw Aside that I’m currently plotting out.
After her husband’s infidelities are revealed, Kasey Sanford just wants to rediscover who she is. After an abusive childhood and years as a career soldier, Andrew Adams just wants someone to tell him that he’s doing the right thing with his life. When their paths cross, Kasey and Andrew embark on a tumultuous journey that demonstrates just what they’re willing to do to save the ones they love.