Greetings, lovely readers. :)
We had our anthology launch for ‘Ripples’ on the first of December. It was a lovely turn out. So wonderful to meet some of the other contributors and have them sign my copy. It was a bit surreal to be asked to sign copies too, but it was such a fun experience. It was good to feel part of something special too considering it is Rockingham Writing Centre’s first release. :)
The following day I attended the official book launches of Ms Carolyn Wren for her new book – Love Under Fire, which I reviewed in a previous blog, and Ms Demelza Carlton for her latest release -Blow, which is next on my TBR pile. It was a small gathering due to so many other events being on that day, but what an opportunity to sit and listen to two experienced writers sharing their path to publication and answer our questions. We had our very own masterclass and a captive (and captivated) audience. It was brilliant. :)
I’d planned to read the next Odd Thomas book, but it’s still packed in a box somewhere. Meanwhile, I had these wonderful stories to read instead. :)
Shattered Earth by Jenny Schwartz
The scum of the galaxy are using Earth as a nuclear winter death camp. It outrages pirate captain Kohia Jekyll’s sense of justice. No one deserves to die agonizingly of radiation poisoning, especially not on the planet humanity had to evacuate seven generations ago. So Kohia intends to close the prison camp down.
She didn’t count on an infuriating shaman healer hitching a ride aboard her starship.
Nairo Bloodstone isn’t going to Earth to be a hero. He learned the hard way that when you’re a healer, doing your best for people is never enough. One miracle leads them to demand another and another. Heroes die exhausted and alone, and the galaxy continues with billions of people still clamouring for a miracle-worker to save them.
No, Nairo isn't going to Earth to be a hero. He intends to change what it means to be human.
Kohia Jekyll is not a captain you want to cross. A space pirate she may be, but her desire for justice is a deeply ingrained part of her psyche. Her loyal crew are ready to follow her perilous rescue mission and she trusts them all, except perhaps the alien from their newly created alliance, and the human shaman healer who makes her inner tiger purr like a kitten – damn the man. His kind of distraction is the last thing she needs.
Nairo Bloodstone has his own agenda for hitching a ride aboard the pirate starship. It has everything to do with his research. He wants to study the pirate captain, learn how the ‘sha’ energy builds around her and others like her. His only goal, to help them reclaim the ability to shapeshift their Earth ancestors once had. It has nothing to do with the woman herself, does it? But when their mission goes horribly wrong, and disastrous secrets are revealed, protocol and research are the last things on their mind.
I loved the inner strengths of the main characters in this story, which were so opposite the ones they showed to everyone else. The action flowed well and continued to up the ante with every chapter. It amused me the way Kohia and Nairo reacted toward each other – two strong characters who thought they didn’t need anyone, yet wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best they had to give, and when it counted, they gave it all. The perfect read while waiting for the next book in the series. :)
Billie the Kid (Sky Fire Chronicles) by Paul Summerhayes
Readers describe this book as The Magnificent 7 meets the X-men.
A young woman's family is cut down by a dark god's emissary, forcing her to pick up a gun and sword in defence of all she holds dear. At this time, she is an unknown, little more than a child, but one day everyone would know and fear her. They call her Billie the Kid.
The old gods stir. Their celestial war spills into our world, ending the American Civil War in an inferno that extinguishes life in large parts of the country. Under cloudless skies, legendary characters roam the wastelands while mutants and demons do more than infest people's nightmares. They lurk in the darkness, waiting to spring into action at the whim of their vile masters.
The Sky Fire Chronicles is a fantasy series set in America during the late 1800's.
Life is harsh in the American West. The late nineteenth century is staggering under the weight of an apocalypse, a continuing battle between the old gods who are desperate to reclaim Earth as their own. Young Billie Antrim can’t remember what her world once was. All she sees is desert, desperate times, and danger just a heartbeat away. Yet she remembers a dark stranger who gave her a single silver coin, a token she’s kept secret from her family for almost a decade.
When mutants murder her step father and leave her mother for dead, Billie vows to join the posse with her brother to capture them. The Wild West may be no place for a woman, but Billie isn’t about to take a step back and let the men take charge. They, and the mutants they’re hunting, are about to learn there’s more to this ‘kid’ than meets the eye.
Wow – take what you know about the traditional story of Billy the Kid and push it to the furthest corner of your mind. Then consider a mix of mutants, the supernatural, and an alternative time line that’s completely unexpected. Billie’s path from child to young woman is a perilous one filled with demonic creatures, surprising encounters, and help from an interesting source. It’s this ‘source’ that I found the most intriguing twist when compared with the traditional story’s events. And it’s something I will be keeping in mind as the series progresses. :)
Mr Summerhayes shows a forte for young adult adventures. I think this series will appeal to many readers, not only for the gunfights and battle scenes, but also for the strengths the lead characters possess.
Ripples – Rockingham Writing Centre’s inaugural anthology – various authors
What an amazing collection of stories. There was something to interest every reader in here. Stories on romance, science fiction, memoirs and recollections, suspense, and horror fill its pages. The first story blew me away with its depth of emotion, (I could have done with a ‘needs tissues’ warning.) And the last story filled me with intrigue waiting for the final twist, and it was a good one too. The best part is most of my writing group has a story in the book. :) Very proud of us all. :)
Copies available through Bec Thomas - firstname.lastname@example.org
On my reading list, Demelza Carlton’s Blow, Jingle Stars by Jenny Schwartz, and Baron by Mel Teshco.
It appears I’m feeling nostalgic this year, so I’m sharing a short story I wrote a few years back.
A Broken Star
Melanie gave her eyes another furious rub as if the act alone would force the tears to disappear.
It was so unfair! How could Dad punish her when it was her stupid, clumsy, little brother’s fault? How could he not understand how important the ornament was? Had he forgotten how precious it was to Mum? How much it meant to them all?
Thoughts of her mother brought fresh tears to the twelve-year-old’s eyes, the kind of tears that no amount of denial or heavy handedness could chase away.
Oh, how she missed her.
It was so hard to believe the last time she’d seen her was almost a year ago when she’d kissed Melanie and her brother goodnight before going to work. The accident happened so fast that it was over before any of them realised she was gone. She’d been running late, having stayed long after her shift at the hospital was over. Melanie’s mum was a careful driver. She’d seen the results of far too many accidents in the Emergency Room over the years. None of them thought she’d ever be in the room as a patient, however brief a time it was, and all because some drunken idiot talking on his mobile phone had run through a red light. Her mother never had a chance.
Melanie moved off her bed and walked over to the wall that separated their bedrooms. She pressed an ear against the cool surface and heard the odd shudder of breath that accompanied the aftermath of heartbreaking sobbing. She felt dreadful.
Maybe she shouldn’t have yelled at him. After all, he was only five. He hadn’t meant to break it.
He’d been so excited when their dad said he could take the gold ceramic star out of its many layers of tissue, packed and unpacked with so much love and care over the years. He hadn’t wanted to pass it to Melanie to hang atop the tree though. He’d wanted to do it all by himself, and that’s when everything had gone wrong.
If she closed her eyes, Melanie could still see the fragile star as it fell from his chubby fingers just as she reached down to wrench it from his grasp. The echo of it hitting the tiles, and bouncing once, then twice, before breaking into half a dozen glittering pieces still swam in her ears in ever-increasing circles.
‘How dare you?’ she had roared. ‘That was Mum’s favourite decoration.’
Handed down from Great Grandma, to Grandma, then to Mum, one day, it was supposed to be hers. And then she’d leaned down and yelled that he was the biggest, stupidest jerk for letting something so precious drop and ruin everything.
Melanie’s dad had stepped in just as she was about to raise her hand and slap his already teary little face.
Melanie drew away from the wall and moved over to the window, her guilt about her little brother weighing down on her already heavy shoulders. She could see her father moving about in his shed, rearranging things to the point where Melanie wondered if he had acquired a disorder. He’d never done that while Mum was alive. In fact, she was forever at him to tidy the place up. Now it seemed that’s all he did.
Well, he went to work, he made sure that she and her brother went to school, and the like, and then he would disappear into the shed again.
Since the accident, neither he nor her brother seemed to have a lot to say about anything, and Melanie never felt more alone.
She turned away from the window with a loud sigh and wiped another tear from her cheek as she flung herself back onto the bed.
What a way to spend Christmas Eve! Banished to her room, her brother miserable, and her dad, well, who knew what he was really doing out there. This time last year, she and her mother had been busy making Christmas Cookies, and the kind of rumballs that were known to put an unwary driver over the limit should they dare to have more than a couple of the decadent treats. As for Jared, her brother, he was dragging out some pitiful looking carrots from the bottom of the crisper. He waved them in the air with one hand, and yelled at Mum to give him some cookies so he could leave them for Santa. Meanwhile he’d spilled the milk he held all over the kitchen floor.
Melanie allowed herself a tiny smile. She could almost smell those cookies baking.
Then she sat up so fast she almost fell off the bed. She really could smell cookies baking, but that was impossible.
She rushed to the window. Her dad was still in the shed, and she could hear the odd sniffle coming from the next room, so she knew Jared hadn’t moved either. Besides, he couldn’t reach the oven controls to turn it on, let alone make the dough, and she hadn’t been in her room long enough for her dad to have time to make a batch either. Melanie turned and took in a deep breath, filling her nostrils with the delicious scent.
She couldn’t be imagining such a tantalising aroma, could she?
Another delicate sniff drew her closer to her bedroom door. The scent seemed to be wafting up from underneath it. Her dad had banished her to her room for the rest of the afternoon, but Melanie hesitated for just a second longer before she opened her door and stepped out into the hall.
She didn’t notice the sound of the door opening behind her as she walked past her brother’s room, nor was she aware of Jared poking his head out the door, all set to yell at her that he was going to tell Dad she was out of her room. She didn’t realise that he’d stopped, sniffed at the air, and was now following her down the hall. Melanie headed towards the kitchen, because that’s where the smell was coming from, wasn’t it?
However, when she got there, it was as if the trail had gone cold. She couldn’t smell a thing. She turned and spied her brother. His wide-eyed look of shock told her that she hadn’t been imagining things. He did a little hiccup as he drew in a breath, turned in the direction that led to the bedroom her parents had once shared, and then looked back at Melanie with a toothy grin, holding out one chubby little hand to her.
‘This way,’ he said, surprising Melanie as much by talking as she’d been shocked to discover the mysterious aroma.
Melanie glanced down and smiled. She never could stay angry with him for long. She held tight to his hand, gave it a little squeeze, and followed him. They walked into the bedroom, the smell of baking once more leading the way. Jared stopped at their mother’s bedside table. He didn’t open the drawer though. He waited for his big sister to do it. Giving him another smile, Melanie pulled open the drawer as if some priceless treasure was about to be revealed. Her mouth fell open as her mother’s cookery book emerged, the one that held her favourite Christmas recipes.
Mum had always kept it on the shelf with her other recipe books. How did it get in here?
Before she could give any proper thought to the matter, Jared was putting the book in one of her hands, and tugging on the other to lead her out of the room, his little button nose held aloft as he sniffed at the air like a dog on the track of something too delightful to ignore. Melanie drew in another breath, and this time, she could smell the pungent mix of rum and coconut.
In minutes, they were in the lounge room, not that Melanie wanted to go in there. That’s where the Christmas tree was, all trimmed and beautiful, yet missing the beautiful star that should be sitting atop it. It reminded her why she was sad and what had upset her in the first place. Still, she let her brother lead her towards the empty box that had held all the decorations. Only it wasn’t empty anymore.
Her mouth agape, and her eyes wide as she looked inside the box, was the golden star. What’s more, it was intact. It was as if the ceramic treasure had never been broken. Melanie couldn’t even see the joins where her dad must have glued it together.
And he must have done it, mustn’t he?
She had to remind herself that he was still out in the shed. With great care, Jared reached in, picked up the ornament, and turned to give it to his sister. Melanie put down the cookery book, put her arms around her little brother’s waist, and picked him up. Together, they managed to reach the top of the tree and set the star in place.
Lured inside by the smell of baking, their father froze in the doorway. His tears of anguish became tears of joy, and his heart was light as he watched his children working together at the kitchen bench. He didn’t mind that there was more flour on the floor and on his son’s face than in the bowl. He didn’t care that quite a lot of rum had disappeared from the once full bottle, or that the neck of said bottle lay hidden under coconut and chocolate sprinkle fingerprints. He leaned against the door and smiled at the joy that adorned his children’s faces, and in that moment, the scent of a familiar perfume invaded his nostrils.
At first, he was startled, and then he remembered a long ago promise he had made with his wife. She had found a way to let him know that wherever she was now, that she was okay, and in his heart, he knew that he and their children would be okay too. She was watching over them, just as the golden star watched over their little family all these years. He would pick up the pieces from the container he’d placed them in, and somehow try to fix it in just a moment. For now, he was content to bask in the happiness of his children and enjoy the scent of Christmas baking, and the hint of Chanel No. 5 that lingered in the air.
My copy-editing jobs are done for the year, and our writing group had a wonderful little Christmas party with too much delicious food. We already have our assignments for the first meeting next year and I look forward to another ‘term’ with Romance Writers Australia (RWA) in my ambassadorial role. The goals are coming together. I still want to attempt that script, I’ve finished editing one story and started another, and I have two new stories to write. And I’m sure I’ll find a competition or three along the way.
There’ll be more copy editing to do to keep me out of mischief, but in the meantime, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to all who celebrate it. For those who don’t, I hope you enjoy special times and your own celebrations with your loved ones too. And big hugs for those who find this time of year difficult.
See you next year. :)