Monday, 22 April 2019

April's Interview - Susan Kite

Interview with Susan Kite

Q. First of all I’d like to ask about The Mendel Experiment, your rather successful sci-fi trilogy for young readers. A short blurb?

(Maybe not so short, but here goes!)
The Mendel Experiment – In the distant future, a galactic federation is desperate for rare resources on a remote planet named Mendel, but the system’s sun is deadly to humans. Scientists create a race of young mutated humans who can survive and work on the planet. They are sent to Mendel with suppressed memories, making survival their only goal.
After five years Corree and her small group began having weird dreams. Their hidden memories slowly surface. Corree searches for other mutants and finds that in each place she travels, she mutates to survive in the new environment. When her quest takes her to the desert, Corree discovers Ologrians—aliens that carry her far beyond Mendel’s solar system to their home planet, Alogol.
On Alogol, Greelon, an Ologrian scientist, treats her with kindness and teaches her his language and history. He takes her to the Crystal Forest where she finds a gemstone that seems to enhance her abilities. Federation scientists have been trying to destroy the Ologrians. When Alogol’s sun goes critical, Corree joins Ologrian refugees traveling to Mendel. Using her mutant abilities, Corree is able to prevent a Federation battlecruiser from destroying the Ologrians’ ships.
Blue Fire – The Federation sends specially adapted robots to compel the mutants to mine the planet’s resources. Corree and her friends work together to not only destroy the robots, but to capture the science station where they were created. They recruit recently created mutants, including Corin, the clone of the scientific genius who created Corree and her friends. Then they take the station into the Mendel system.
Power Stone of Alogol – An unknown entity takes control of the orbiting science station, demanding the return of the clone. Corree answers the summons disguised as Corin and travels to the scientist’s starship. She discovers a plan to destroy all non-human species. Alone on an immense battle cruiser, Corree must find a way to stop this destruction.

Q. How did it feel to have the first in the series come second in a literary award?

It felt wonderful! A book is hard work and to get an award like the Royal Palm Literary Award makes the work worthwhile.

Q. Your latest sci-fi/fantasy release Realms of the Cat, involves a cat having to cross over to another dimension to help his ‘alternate’ family. It struck me that you opted for ‘another dimension’ rather than the more traditional ‘other world.’ Do you think than in modern times young readers will relate more to the science based alternate universe idea? (In contrast to the religious undertones of Narnia, the pagan traditions of Harry Potter, etc)

The working title of the book was Portals, so I always saw it as a cross-realm/dimension experience. Also an off-handed way to explain that nine lives myth about cats. And then I threw in the King of the Cats thing. The only thing even remotely religious about most of my stories is that fact that I believe in a basic moral decency in my characters, and that decency will eventually prevail. I also grew up reading huge amounts of science fiction, so that has got to be an influence. As to kids relating, I generally think that kids like a ‘rollicking good tale’ whether it’s couched in some science or all in magic.

Q. How is writing for kids different from writing for adults?

For the most part, I write for young adults even when I am writing for adults. I am not comfortable writing love stories, graphic violence and the like whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, or anything else. I just finished drafting an adult science fiction, (what in the day would be called a space opera), and I realized that the only difference between it and my young adult sci-fi was that the characters are adults. Any romance is inferred.

Q. I hear you’ve spent many years working in public school libraries. Do you find you’ve been more influenced by the books around you or by the kids themselves?

Mostly the books, because I do love to read. That is one of the biggest things I miss in elementary libraries—discovering the new books that come out and how they affect the kids. When things like Skippyjon Jones, Bad Kitty, Harry Potter, or Percy Jackson fires children’ imaginations, I want to know why. Kids have it tough today; you sometimes see it in their eyes. Books give hope while also giving escape. Maybe that’s another reason I find sci fi and fantasy so fulfilling. You can place hope, heroism, humanity, and courage in a distant setting. You have still touched on those ugly things in life, but it’s not in your face, if that makes sense. I don’t think I could do a credible contemporary novel.

Q. I also hear you’ve been writing for a long time and even have a previous career as fanfiction writer. What can you tell us about your early work?

Up until I got my first (used) computer, everything was in vignettes in my mind while washing clothes or vacuuming the rug. And it was all pretty much fan fiction. I did write some short Star Trek stories in notebooks, even as far as back as high school, but none survived. That’s probably a good thing. Quite simply, after so many years, all those stories in my mind demanded exposure and the internet gave that to me. I also had some ‘mainstream’ stories and novels I began at that time, but I didn’t really know what to do with them, I was still busy raising kids and working full time. I didn’t have time to do more in my spare time than write fan fiction stories. And let’s face it—in fan fiction you have already established characters. It’s easier. I rediscovered Zorro, then tried to do straight sci fi with Lost in Space (hard to do with Dr. Smith in tow), then worked on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and a few other things tossed in. I

Q. Being a writer with experience, do you find it easier to sit down and get right to it; less time just staring at the screen?

Sometimes, but I have found that every stage of life has its own challenges, and retirement from full time work is no exception. I am still getting used to working on a different schedule. There are times when I do stare at the screen; when it is hard to motivate myself and believe me, you can’t force a story. On the other hand, some of my best writing has been in doctor’s office waiting rooms! I always try to keep a notebook with me. I have also tried to challenge myself with short story contests (I have won a few!) and contributions to blogs and newspapers. Another motivator that works for me is the Nanowrimo events. I wrote two novels last year that way.

Q. All your books have great covers by the way. Do you design them yourself?

No. My last four books were done by my publisher. Karen is very talented. I really don’t have good design sense when it comes to that kind of thing. Realms of the Cat went through three incarnations. The publisher had a heck of a time finding the right cat and when she did, I liked the very first design. A local designer friend said it had some things that needed fixing, so I mentioned it to Karen. She made the changes, and again, I said great. Then an artist friend pointed out something else, so I sent another email. The third cover is how is ended up and I think it’s phenomenal. I have had many compliments on it.

Q. Okay, one last question and the chance for a sales pitch. One of your reviews raises the point of how as one gets older, young adult fiction becomes more appealing. Does keeping it simple and focussing on the story and characters make for a better read? Do these books appeal to adults too?

I have had more than one person say the same thing to me. I sure do hope young adult books (mine as well as others), appeal to adults. Of course, I believe that a well written young adult book should also appeal to adults. Many of the themes are universal. These days there are many modern young adult novels that are every bit as complex as your adult suspense thriller. Still, most seem to keep a basic premise. There is a problem or issue that the young person needs to solve.
I think the young adult main character is usually not as complicated, as a Stephen King or an Alan Dean Foster character. For instance, look at Harry Potter. He is just a kid trying to survive in his environment and figure out why he is different. (That is a common thread in most kids’ literature. Kids feel awkward even when they have ‘normal’ lives.)
Corree, in the Mendel Experiment trilogy, is a fourteen-year-old who starts out dealing with survival—hers and her “family’s.” Despite what the Federation throws at her, her basic goal is survival. Even when she is taken across the galaxy to Alogol, the Federation home planet, or to the renegade battlecruiser, she is still trying to survive, and do it with dignity.
Simplicity is more apparent in a Middle grade story. The main characters in Realms of the Cat are cats and dogs (and, of course, Charlie, the crow), who have even less complicated agendas. In this novel, TB has one major objective—to right a wrong, which is saving the little girl who used to be his owner.

Thanks for taking the time on this one Susan. Great answers. And good luck with the new release.

For more information, check out Susan Kite’s amazon page here and her website here . You can also connect with her on goodreads here .

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Sunday, 14 April 2019

April's Book - Sapience by Alexis Lantgen

This month's featured book is the debut collection from Alexis Lantgen. Ten short stories from an author to watch out for.

What kind of life will we find in the depths of Europa’s oceans? What kind of life will we allow an AI with human level intelligence? The ten stories in Sapience: A Collection of Science Fiction Short Stories explore these questions and many more.

In the near future, humanity builds a colony on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. They tunnel into the ice to explore the dark oceans beneath the moon's surface, searching for signs of extraterrestrial life. What they find will change them forever, setting humanity on a path to the stars. But the old conflicts and hatreds of Earth are not so easily escaped. Will human colonists on distant planets and moons create a paradise or a horrifying dystopia?

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

April's Story - Day of the Ficus by Wendy Van Camp

Day of the Ficus

by Wendy Van Camp


Doctor Pearson, there is a message coming in.”

Dammit. Who the hell is still up there, Buttons?”

I am MCC, your Mechanical Cultivation Cyborg. I do not answer to Buttons.”

Where’s the blasted microphone?”

Three feet to your left and on the table, Doctor Pearson.”

This is Doctor Mary Pearson of the EPA. I thought everyone evacuated. Who are you and why the hell are you still there?”

Officer Roy Hayes. I helped with the evac, but I got cut off by … those things.”

Don’t touch them! Repeat. Do not touch the plants!”

I might not have much choice. They’re moving closer.”

Your location, Hayes?”

Third floor, near Forever 21. I’m trapped behind the display window with the manikins.”

Stay put. We’re going to get you out of there. Out.”

Doctor Pearson, I must protest. Nothing seems to kill Ficus Capillipes. How will we rescue Officer Hayes and save the mall?”

There’s one thing that we haven’t tried. I need your help, Buttons. I still can’t see. Damn plant and its protective goop went right into my eyes. I should’ve sent your metal hide in there instead of going myself.”

I was not manufactured for that purpose, Doctor. I am a cultivator, not a destroyer. It is against my programming.”

This is your lucky day, Buttons. Get your mechanical gears in motion and lead me to the Sports Authority! I need gear.”

I do not answer to Buttons.”

Get your metal butt moving.”


Third floor, Doctor. We are on level flooring again. Ficus at 3 o’clock, four feet away.”

Take that, you nasty plant!”

Doctor, you almost flamed me with the weed burner. Do be careful.”

Just lead me to Forever 21.”

Ficus at 8:30, five feet ahead.”


You there! I have a pistol. Stand down with the flame thrower.”

Officer Hayes? It is Mary Pearson. We’ve come to rescue you.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Are you all right, Officer?”

My leg got crushed. Can’t walk. The city PD contacted me. They’re going to blow up the mall. They don’t think there’s any other way to contain these mutant plants.”

What about us?”

If we can get to the roof, a helicopter will lift us out. Will that weed burner get us there?”

You bet your sweet behind it will. Buttons, you’re going to carry Officer Hayes and be my guide. We’re counting on you.”

I do not answer to Buttons.”

Just lift the man.”


Dr. Pearson, they are ascending Officer Hayes into the helicopter. You are next.”

We would’ve never gotten this far without you.”

I am too heavy for the helicopter, Doctor Pearson.”

I’m sorry. If there was any other way. …”

I am only a machine.”

You’re an AI. You have sentience.”

The rope is around you, Doctor. You must go before they blow up the mall.”

You’re a hero, MCC.”

Call me Buttons.”

Wendy Van Camp writes science fiction, regency romance, and poetry. Her writing blog No Wasted Ink ( features essays about the craft of writing, poetry, flash fiction, and author interviews. Wendy’s short stories and poems have appeared in science fiction magazines such as “Quantum Visions”, “Altered Reality Magazine”, “Scifaikuest”, and “Far Horizons”. She has won Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future Contest and is a graduate of the James Gunn Speculative Fiction Workshop.