Sunday Surprise


And it’s a guest! And since we’re moving into the month of sci-fi, he’s a sci-fi writer! We met at a few Worldcons through the years as well as book fairs in Italy. He’s a great guy, great writer and great publisher! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Francesco Verso!

Where do you live and write from?

I live in Rome (Italy) since most of my time.

Why do you write?

I believe in the power of Science Fiction to shed some light on the future of mankind. I am convinced that literature can help to better understand the psychological and socials mechanics of the world we live in and, in particular, now that technology is playing an ever important role in our lives and relationship we can’t avoid its impact on our reality. Thus, my stories imagine what would be the short and long term consequences of our symbiosis with different kind of technologies ranging from prosthetics, to artificial intelligences, from 3D printed replaceable organs to DNA modifications and nanotech developments. All these anatomical augmentations will have a deep reflection on our identity and thus on our ethics and morals, both on an individual and social scale.

I feel there’s an urgency to update our dramaturgy to the technically accelerated times we live in, something that the mainstream genre is also starting to acknowledge, thanks to the popularity of TV Series like “Black Mirror”, “Westworld”, “Humans”, “Mr. Robot”, “Electric Dreams”.

When did you start writing?

During my University years, I’ve studied one year in Amsterdam for an Erasmus project and there – along the canals – I’ve found a little second hand shop run by an American guy who had opened a bookstore there specialized in SF. Down in the cellar he kept hundreds of SF classics, like Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, Ian McDonal’s “Desolation Road”, William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, Ursula Le Guin “The Left Hand of Darkness”. I started from there, with the crazy ambition of imitating the writers that I now consider my teachers and sources of inspiration.

What genre(s) do you write?

I write Science Fiction, which means I set my stories in the near future and mostly on Earth. I can’t really write about other worlds as I believe there’s enough “alien realities” and “otherness” here on our planet, just around the corner of wherever we live, to light up any sense of wonder and walk into an “uncanny valley”. Lately I am interested in exploring the solarpunk and human augmentation subgenres – say sustainable energies and posthuman issues driven by technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 – as tools to analyze the biopolitical scenarios we’re heading to in the next years.

What does your writing routine consist of?

I used to have a routine of writing very early in the morning (from 6 to 8am). I’ve managed to write 4 novels and 7 short stories in this way, over the course of 6 years. But since I’ve opened a small press called Future Fiction dedicated to scouting, translating and publishing the best SF authors from every corner of the world, I have changed my schedule. Now I try to concentrate the first draft of my writings during some weeks where I focus all day long and then edit the material whenever I can find some spare time during the year. I became a full time writer 10 years ago, so I have plenty of time, but I need to organize it in a very efficient way, since Future Fiction is taking a lot of my time in reading other people’s stories, going to Book Fairs and SF Cons around the world. Lately I’ve turned also into a public speaker so the time for writing is getting smaller and smaller but more intense.

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?

Good question and not easy to answer. Let’s say I like to build an interesting plot. My stories are always driven by the actions and desires of the main characters because I think readers should always identify themselves with the themes at stake. Also I am a very curious researcher and careful editor, that means I work a lot on new, breakthrough ideas, or at least on innovative ways to retelling them as not to leave the feeling of “being there, done that”. For me, fiction is the best way to discover new realities through the eyes of someone who can make me believe he/she has been there.

Over the years, I’ve developed a great attention to “meaningful details” and to master the themes of the stories I write about. I need to know a lot more than what appears on paper (the famous “iceberg” approach) and not just in the first draft but also during the revision, which takes much more time and dedication than the first draft (approx. 3-4 times more). My latest novel – the Walkers – went through 9 different revisions and at least three editors looked at the story before I could consider it ready to be published.

So I’ve learned to wait, to have a discipline, not to rush to the end, and then to appreciate the process more than the finish. Maturity taught me that a writer’s biggest enemy is not sold book or selling charts but time; I write to win its favor.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I’m an outliner. I like to know where I am going and also where I am taking the readers. During the plotting, I sketch the course of actions and relationships between the main characters. Then of course I allow myself the freedom to wander around and take different directions if they are in line with the general path. I limit the improvisation to the writing phase, also because I believe in the value of content density, meaning that writing should embody the highest level of meaning in the shortest amount of words. To achieve this goal, I write brief summaries of every chapter as they – at least for me – should respect a sort of “opening-apex-hook” dramatic structure.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

There isn’t a specific goal: writing is already a kind of reward for me and the feeling that I am contributing with novels and short stories to a wider discussion (the future of mankind, the ever changing relationship between man and machine, the development of biopolitics) is a stimulating challenge for my mind. I enjoy the moment when a new idea crosses my thoughts, the very moment when a piece of dramatic information has the potential of turning into a full story, the craft of an interesting scenario that comes alive in front of your own eyes. In a way, it’s like playing God with possible futures, exploring the good and bad of mankind behavior… and that’s not a small thing for me. And then, most of all, when I go to SF Cons and Book Fairs around the world and I can share all these experiences and discussions with other fellow writers and readers, that’s when I truly feel happy and satisfied. It’s a difficult job in terms of money (small payments, no insurance about the future, no idea if your next book will be good as a previous one) with lots of personal disappointments, emotional failings and hard time but it’s also the only job I wouldn’t change with anything else.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

An editor once told me: “Furnish your plot, not your character’s thoughts,” meaning that actions should emerge from the character’s behaviour and not from his/her mumbling and concerns. Readers are best engaged by other people’s actions and reactions more than their thoughts and internal monologues. That doesn’t mean characters should be flat and simply driven by hectic actions like in a thriller movie, but that – on the contrary – all inside feelings and emotions should rise to the surface of behaviour during the course of events and physical actions. In other words, it simply means putting real life into fiction and not consider fiction as a literary world outside the real one. I’ve learned maybe a very simple thing: that fiction imitates life and life imitates fiction. That’s what makes Science Fiction plausible and move the readers mind in a wonderful direction: a story that keeps doing its job even when the book is over since a long time. The persistence of a book is the best measure of its quality.

I hear your novel “Nexhuman” has been translated from Italian into English and published by Apex books. Care to elaborate on that?

It took around 8 years to write the book, publish it on Delos Books in Italy, then have it translated in English and publish it in Australia with Xoum and then finally to arrive on the US market thanks to Jason Sizemore who liked it so much he decided to have a US edition of Nexhuman.

So I am very happy to see an Italian SF book published by an established and highly valued SF publishing house like Apex since a very long time. The US market is almost impossible to enter if you don’t write in English, which means the costs of translation are often on the shoulders of writers or the publishing house that decides to invest in it (except maybe for mainstream and literary books that have a slightly better treatment thanks to funds and grants). So paradoxically, in SF, where there should be more openness and desire to overcome boundaries and limitations than any other genre, we see a totally different picture: it’s been formally addressed as the “3% Problem”, meaning that only 3% of what is published in the US market comes from Non-English speaking countries and in that 3% are included all the languages of the World!

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I’ve just published in Italian on Future Fiction the first book of my latest novel called “The Walkers” which is made of two stories: “The Pulldogs” and “No/Mad/Land”. The first book has been already translated in English by Jennifer Delare and I hope to find a publisher for it outside of Italy.

Then on the editing side, I’ve worked with Bill Campbell, editor of Rosarium Publishing to publish an anthology called “Future Fiction: New Dimensions in International SF”, where we’ve selected stories from the best SF authors from the world coming also from Non-English speaking countries. And the same thing I’ve done China with Guangzhou Blue Ocean Press selecting SF stories for high-schools and universities students.

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Find Francesco online:

Web Page: www.futurefiction.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/francesco.verso.31

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Francesco_Verso

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4817872.Francesco_Verso

Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Francesco-Verso/e/B005BOQNRY

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Sunday Surprise


And it’s the first guest of the year! And she’s Italian like me! I heard her speak at a panel here in Rome and later contacted her through Facebook. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli (I kind of heard the announcement in a Sam Rockwell’s voice from Galaxy Quest: “And now please welcome Commander Peter-peter-peter Quincy-quincy-quincy Taggart!”)! 😀

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Where do you live and write from?

I live in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia (Italy), a beautiful city by the Mediterranean Sea.

Why do you write?

I write to make my stories real.

When did you start writing?

I was 17 or 18. I loved (and still love) films and I had so many stories in my head, so I started by writing screenplays. Then I turned to fan fiction. I’ve written original fiction since 2009.

What genre(s) do you write?

I write science fiction and thrillers.

What does your writing routine consist of?

I don’t have a special routine for writing. I don’t write every day. I plan my writing periods ahead of time. They usually lasts a few months, depending on the length of the book (I can write 40-50k words a month). In those periods I put myself in front of my pc for 4-5 hours almost every day (except holidays). Sometimes I do that first time in the day, sometimes late at night.

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?

I think I’m good in getting the reader into the mind of the characters. With practice, I learned to identify in the PoV characters and use the proper style (that is “show, don’t tell”) to write the story from their head.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

I find inspiration in everything that touches my life. Real personal experience or what other people told me. Books I read, films I see, TV series I watch. Articles I read. Everything and anything.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I’m definitely an outliner, although I often change the outline during the writing. I think I’m a fairly fast writer. I tend to write 1500-2000 words per writing session (4-5 hours).

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

My main goal is writing stories that I care to become real (in my mind), i.e. books that I would read as a reader. Writing is currently an important source of income in my life. My goal is to make it be so also in the future.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

I really can’t remember one in particular.

Tell us about your latest book (add link if published)

My latest book in Italian is “Oltre il limite” (Beyond the Limit), book three in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy (it’s a crime thriller series).

My latest book in English is “Kindred Intentions”, an action-packed thriller set in London and surroundings about an undercover agent, Amelia Jennings, who becomes prey in a man hunt. Her life will change completely in exactly 24 hours.

I hear your English title(s) is (are) published by Amazon imprints. How did that happen?

An English edition of my crime thriller “The Mentor” (original title: “Il mentore”, book one in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy) was published by AmazonCrossing in autumn 2015 and it was a bestseller, reaching No. 1 in the Kindle Store in USA, UK, and Australia.
The translation rights in English were reverted to me at the beginning of December 2017, so a new edition, with a brand new translation, will be published in the near future.
I landed this contract with Amazon Publishing in 2014, when “Il mentore” was published in Italian. It was selling very well for a few months, when I received an e-mail from a person at Amazon Publishing who wanted to speak to me over the phone. We had an interesting conversation, then I was contacted by an AmazonCrossing editor from Seattle. I had the chance to meet this person at the Frankfurter Buchmesse a couple of weeks later. After that meeting I received an offer from her.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

In the English-speaking market, I’m focused on translating and get the whole Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy published.
Concerning the Italian market, I’m starting to work on the fourth book in the Aurora Saga (science fiction), titled “Sirius. In caduta libera” (Sirius. Free Falling). Moreover I’m writing a book about self-publishing, based on a class I taught at the University of Insubria (Varese, Italy) in 2016.

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Blog: http://ladyanakina.blogspot.com

Web Page http://www.anakina.eu

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RitaCarlaFMonticelli

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ladyanakina

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/anakina

Author Central http://www.amazon.com/author/ritacarlafrancescamonticelli

Instagram http://www.instagram.com/ladyanakina/

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/anakina

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/ladyanakina

G+ http://plus.google.com/u/0/+RitaCarlaFrancescaMonticelli

YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/ladyanakina

Random Friday


Like I said, I’m back to the Star Minds universe and the first story is Aliens on Earth. By some internet serendipity, on Facebook I found this spoof of Trip Advisor.

Translation: Planet Earth (Solar System) “Terrifying” (one star) by Oinega87 Nice but polluted environment. Disorganization in all areas and staff not very good. Inhabitants that eliminate each other for no reason. Much better the old management with dinosaurs. I will not return.

Which, coincidentally, might be the review of my Reptilian visitor, except the Earth of 2046 of my story is not as badly off as we will be when we reach that year, haha!

Now, I’ve also been reading sci-fi to get back into the mood. I reread Rendezvous With Rama because I needed to see how someone else described an asteroid crashing on Earth (although in my case it’s not Earth that will be hit, don’t worry) and then I started on Callisto: Dead Colony.

That’s probably the kind of stories I will never write about hostile space environments and things like that, but I must say so far the two books are in the same vein, although the second (and newest) has more action. But then, the first is a classic, so kudos to the author for keeping the pace! 🙂

And you can get Callisto: Dead Colony in Sci-Fi the May Day Bundle along with Technological Angel (book 1 of Star Minds), so go grab it if you don’t have it already! Have a great weekend!

Sunday Surprise


Hi guys,
I’m Samantha and I come from another world – the original, old Silvery Earth, where people are immortal and never grow up. When I’m not switching bodies at will, I travel to other universes, especially books or movies. That’s how I met Rajveer the vampire, for example!

So, I’m taking over the interviews on this blog! And here I am, meeting people from other books/universes/whatever!

And we’re finally off that darn new Silvery Earth! It’s a brand new world! No, universe! No, wait… let’s hear it from these people here.

Hello, there! Tell me a little about yourself!

NAMTAR: I am Corporal Namtar, serving under Maharani Uma and Commander Kartikeya in their fight to secure freedom for the people of Yuanshi. The events chronicled in City Of Deceit took us somewhat out of our comfort zone, into a world where politics is played out by double agents and interstellar battleships. Naturally, I relied on my wits, charm and intelligence to survive. Unlike the man next to me.

INARI: I’m Private Inari and I work with him. I ain’t one for using wits but I am good at shooting things. I was a corporal once, for almost five whole minutes.

Wow, what a pair! Let’s play a game! Describe each other’s appearance in ten words or less!

NAMTAR: My colleague is a fat Greek slob from the gutter.

INARI: Namtar is a stuck-up lanky Russian who talks rubbish.

Tee-hee! You guys are weird! Anyhow, what is your role in the story?

NAMTAR: As you may know, author Ms Bennion is steadily chronicling the heady events of the last decades of the twenty-third century, where humanity has learned to cross the cosmos and reach the nearby stars.

I’m glad it’s someone else from that crazy Silvery Earth author and I hope she treats her characters well – unlike another author of a vampire series who likes to maim and kill off her characters! Tell me more about her books!

NAMTAR: In her latest book, City Of Deceit, followers of the late Maharaja are fighting for independence on the terraformed moon of Yuanshi in the Epsilon Eridani system: a battle against the security forces of the Que Qiao Corporation, which cares only for profits as it harvests Yuanshi’s wealth on behalf of governments on Earth. The story sees us accompanying the widowed Maharani Uma to Earth to take Yuanshi’s plea for independence to the United Nations. Nothing goes as planned, all the players are double-crossing everyone else and we end up fighting for our lives aboard one of the first ever space battleships. As you might expect, my role involves a lot of clever subterfuge and quick thinking to save the day.

INARI: I did stuff too. I liked the lightning-ball cannon. Being space pirates was cool.

Battleships and space pirates! Wow! So what is your relationship with the protagonist?

NAMTAR: The main protagonist of City Of Deceit is Raja Surya, Maharani Uma’s son and the young heir to the throne of Yuanshi. The story follows the trials and tribulations faced by the Maharani in London, as seen through the eyes of Surya and his friend Zotz Wak from the hollow moon. The young Raja is quite headstrong and more than capable of getting himself and others into trouble. The author’s first book, Hollow Moon, chronicled how we kidnapped Surya so he could stand with Commander Kartikeya at a peace conference, though I assure you our intentions were honourable. The safety of the Raja is paramount. We do what we can to serve.

INARI: The Raja wanted to go to Earth so I smuggled us both aboard the shuttle. The Maharani called me an idiot. Ravana’s friend Zotz came with us to the floating village in London.

I love those Indian-sounding names! Did you know I met an Indian vampire? I wanted to keep him, but he preferred to go back to Earth. *sigh* But I digress!! Where do you live, what is your world called, etc.?

NAMTAR: Our service to Maharani Uma and Commander Kartikeya demands that we operate from the rebel city of Lanka on Yuanshi. Before the war, the Maharani resided in the capital Ayodhya, which was much more to my tastes. Kubera Palace in Lanka has seen better days. Civil war does put a dampener on the finer things in life.

INARI: We get about a bit. I hate sleeping on spaceships.

What’s wrong with spaceships cabins and bunk beds? *mutters to herself* Will have to interview more spacefaring people! *grins at guests* Are you involved in a relationship? If so, with who and what is it about them that you find appealing?

INARI: I had a girlfriend once. Hujing, back at the mining village where I grew up on Taotie. Then Namtar arrived and spoiled everything. I ended up in jail.

Men! They only bring trouble, don’t they? *snorts*

NAMTAR: My fat friend here had just stolen a military Local Ambient Megastructure Projector, an interrogation device that projected hypnotic illusions. She would have not have fallen for a lazy lump of lard like him otherwise.

Mmm… yeah, whatever… What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?

NAMTAR: There were some hairy moments aboard the dreadnaught as I recall. Events were somewhat complicated by crazy cyberclones and giant alien spiders. Walking in Earth’s gravity was quite a challenge in itself after a lifetime on low-gravity worlds. Especially seeing as I had been wounded by an imbecile with a harpoon.

INARI: That was an accident, honest.

You guys are the best frenemies I ever met! *grin* Do you have a moral code?

NAMTAR: As a devotee to the Dhusarian Church of Yuanshi, I believe that true wisdom will be delivered by the galactic travellers known as the greys. All we can do is prepare the way so that humankind is ready to receive this gift.

INARI: Moral code? Big guns are good.

*burst out laughing* Careful with those guns! You might shoot yourself in the foot! Please give me an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

NAMTAR: I played a role in a fairy tale somewhat reminiscent of Cinderella. Hanuman and Ganesa, the crew of the rebel freighter Sun Wukong, first met at the annual American Christmas Ball in Lanka. It was I who procured their invitations.

INARI: He ain’t been no fairy godfather to me.

Would you really want him to be your fairy godfather, though? Time’s almost up! What 2 or 3 questions do you wish I’d asked and what are your answers to them?

NAMTAR: Maybe a question on whether we will appear in future tales by the author? Our involvement in this saga of interstellar chicanery certainly does not end with the events chronicled in City Of Deceit. Of course, Ms Bennion may decide that publishing further exploits of Inari’s contagious stupidity is too much for discerning readers. While you’re at it, could you ask Inari to stop picking his nose?

INARI: I was going to ask about lunch. Do we get one with these interviews?

Mmm, lunch? Why not? I have this prolific hand that can produce anything… *waves her left hand* Do you need a menu to choose or do you already know what you want?

* * *

ebook_cod(vh)_reducedCity Of Deceit (Hollow Moon #3) by Steph Bennion

Raja Surya, young heir to the throne of the moon of Yuanshi, cannot stay out of trouble for long. Zotz Wak, intrepid boy inventor otherwise known as The Flying Fox, decides Earth is the place to become a man. Together they must battle the dystopian darkness of 23rd-century London: a city of deceit, under the thumb of corporations, its people barricaded behind flood walls, bewitched by the hypnotic holoverse and worse.

The United Nations is deciding the fate of Surya’s world. The Que Qiao Corporation is using the threat of alien monsters to call for war. Ravana O’Brien, the heroine of their previous adventures, is stricken with a mystery illness and her hollow moon home has problems of its own.

Surya never thought he would be in the captain’s chair aboard the first ever interstellar battleship. Zotz never expected to find himself accused of being a spy and terrorist at the centre of political skulduggery in London. The far-flung worlds of the five systems would never be the same again. Taranis, the dark priest of destiny, has returned.

http://www.wyrdstar.co.uk/books/cityofdeceit.html

AUTHOR BIO

Steph Bennion was born and bred in the Black Country, spent too many years in the big bad city that is London and now lives in Hastings, a very nice town by the seaside. Her books are written as a reaction to the dearth of alternative heroes amidst young adult bookshelves swamped by tales of the supernatural. For every aspiring vampire or wizard, she believes that the world needs an astrophysicist, an engineer, or at the very least someone who will one day work out how to make trains run on time.

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She was interviewed on this very blog almost three years ago

Random Friday


Todya we’re more into the reading randomness. As I mentioned, I want to write out of my comfort zone, so when I found this contest (and since the deadline is so close but it’s a yearly feature I have added it to the bookmarks for future submissions) I tried reading some real SF. Before I start one of those bundles I got last year, I re-read Expedition to Earth, since the dead trees version was already on my shelves and I haven’t re-read it since I bought it approximately 20 years ago.

Now I won’t rate it or anything, I just wanted to comment on the last story, The Sentinel (base for Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odissey that I watched once, hated and swore never to watch again, but that’s just me! 😉 I don’t get Kubrick, that’s all). In there Mr.Clarke postulates that we’d have a base of some sort on the moon by 1996. I daresay this belief stuck up to the early 1970s (anyone remembers Space 1999? I saw it both in Italian and French, LOL) but now? It’s still in the realm of science fiction. Sigh. So many high hopes in the first half of last century and then what happened? Man walked on the moon and then we were too busy with our petty squabbles to try again?

And then I went on Amazon to order my DVDs for the year (although one is still in pre-order, but since John Wick did come out but it’s just the dubbed version, I’ll just wait for the DVD – action movies in theaters are too loud for my tastes anyway) and in the search page (I needed to re-buy a DVD that doesn’t work so well anymore – maybe I watched it too much? 😉 Might be…) I found this comic… I’d have preferred the paper version (especially since I have an old Kindle Keyboard with B&W screen), but then, that’s what Calibre is for! 😉

The story is set between the movies, and the art… meh. Which didn’t stop me from getting both this one and the Constantine (the movie) one, even if I knew I prefer when I draw them, LOL! So now I have two official comics with Da Muses… I better draw one myself, although I’ll probably stick to silly vignettes, throw them all in the Kindle Comic Creator and publish them when I have enough for a decent-sized ebook! 😀

If anyone would like to be interviewed on this blog, or any character would like to be interviewed, contact me ASAP! Have a great weekend!

Sunday Surprise


And it’s a guest! Remember I said about the Author of the Month? Well, here she is! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Laurel A. Rockfeller! 😀

Where do you live and write from?

Perhaps stereotypically, I am a wandering artist. I was born, raised, and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA where I received my bachelor of arts from the University of Nebraska in stage/film writing via integrated studies, psychology, and history. From there I’ve wandered all over United States. I presently and very temporarily live in western Pennsylvania which I hope to leave in coming months.

By 2016, I plan to immigrate to the United Kingdom and southern England in particular. I write dramatized history and recognize the benefit to my writing that comes from walking the places where my histories actually happened.

I need each of you to help me make that happen.

I will most certainly welcome you to this side of the ocean, athough I live much further south than the British Isles… but then, who knows, maybe by 2016 I’ll also manage to move to the UK and we can meet there! 😉 When did you start writing?

There’s really never been a time where I have not written or composed. I grew up in a particularly harsh evangelical Christian home where domestic violence was effectively condoned – no matter how far it went. I coped with the violence (which included rape by my father starting before the age of two) by singing and composing, making up songs, poems, and stories which I told to my pets as a preschooler and which took written form once I entered school.

As far as the published writing goes, my first national publication came in 1991 when the Minas Tirith Evening Star published my sonnet, “Why Bilbo?” in its edition honoring the 100th birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I was originally published as a poet and songwriter. In 2001 that evolved into non-fiction history writing for newsletters in the Society for Creative Anachronism. In 2008 Bird Talk magazine published two of my articles about the quirks of raising cockatiels. Finally, in August 2012 I published the first edition of my first novel (now out of print in favor of the extended edition from January 2013) from the Peers of Beinan Series and have been a self-published independent author ever since.

I am impressed… What genre(s) do you write?

With three book series, I am of course multi-genre.

The Peers of Beinan Series is science fiction (set in another galaxy), supernatural/fantasy, clean romance, adventure, and mystery/thriller. Since the stories focus on nobles, royals, and so forth (hence “peers”), there is a lot of political intrigue to the books and novellas.

The Legendary Women of World History Series is a series of biographical novellas exploring the lives of women who have shaped our history. Genre-wise they sit smack in the middle between creative non-fiction history and historical fiction. There’s not enough fiction in them to really consider them fully historical fiction. At the same time, I have to name anonymous historical persons and often invent details and conversations in particular that never made it into the historical record. That established, I stick to documented historical events. For example, we know from Tacitus that Boudicca married King Prasutagus of the Iceni and had two daughters with him who were twelve in 61 CE. In my narrative, you see Prasutagus and Boudicca meet in Camulodunum (now called Colchester), hear Prasutagus’ express romantic interest in her, and finally attend their wedding with them. Are these scenes fiction or non-fiction? That’s really in the mind of the reader.

American Stories ranges from historical fiction to dramatized history. These are stories entirely set in the United States or its historical precursors. Book one looks at Irish immigration to Nebraska in the 1880s. The second book, started on August 1st, tells the story of Charlotte Woodward Pierce, the only attendee at the Convention at Seneca Falls (1848) to live to see women cast ballots for the first time in 1920.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

Excellent question. History really is my biggest source of inspiration – not only in who I choose to explore in the biographies, but also with the Peers of Beinan Series as well. Beinarian culture is a fusion of medieval and modern British societies mixed with some Asian cultures and history as well and with an exciting mix of “heritage” and “modern” technologies. That is to say that Beinarian peers will use a heritage (medieval Earth) crossbow as readily as a laser crossbow that shoots plasma quarrels. In this I am grateful to my over twenty years with the Society for Creative Anachronism because I’ve had the opportunity to watch these different weapons in action and sometimes use them on the practice target range. There are several archery scenes in the books. Actually shooting a bow for an afternoon did much to help me write those scenes.

As for putting myself into the stories – I am surprised how much I do that. In chapters one and two of Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni, King Prasutagus courts Boudicca much in the way that I wish to be courted someday. Prasutagus was flawed – his bad choices forced Boudicca into her confrontation with the Roman Governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus – but I would like to think he was also a gentleman in the best sense of the word. So their interactions very much reflect my personality and my desires for the future.

Likewise, I see a lot of different parts of myself in most of the Peers of Beinan Series protagonists.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

Not usually. Ghosts of the Past had the most formal outline I’ve used to date simply because it was the middle chapter of my first trilogy.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I tend to improvise. With the biographies, obviously I need to follow history extremely closely. But within those constraints, I let the characters/historical persons take me along for the ride.

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is the second novella in the LWWH Series on the life of Catherine de Valois. If you know your Shakespeare, you’ve already heard of Catherine – she was “Kate” in “Henry V” and married King Henry on 2nd of June, 1420. As I discovered in my research, Shakespeare’s version of her was radically different from the real person, making me wonder how Shakespeare kept his head given that she was King Henry VII’s paternal grandmother through her second marriage to Owen Tudor.

Catherine lived at the heart of extraordinary times. Across her life, civil war tore France apart. Her father, King Charles VI suffered from disabling mental illness and violent paranoid delusions. Adding to this the newly crowned King Henry V of England, seasoned by his wars against the Welsh, used her as an excuse to not only war with France, but commit terrible atrocities against the women and children of Rouen. Fortunately for her, King Henry’s obsession with eliminating all rivals to his claim to the French throne took his life on 31st August 1422, making her the most eligible widow in Europe – one that Parliament was determined to control. What happened next changed the world forever.

It’s a fantastic history that I hope all of you will explore. Like all my other novellas, Catherine is only 99 cents/75 pence, making it very accessible.

http://viewBook.at/Catherine1401

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/452134

Also, if I may, I would like to let everyone know of an upcoming release this month.

All summer long, gifted UK actor Richard Mann has recorded Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni into an audio edition. It is with great pleasure that I announce that Boudicca is now in post-production and will be live on itunes, audible, and Amazon websites very soon, so please watch for it. Take a listen to my favorite scene from chapter three at http://www.legendarywomenbooks.com/Boudicca_chapter_three_snippet.mp3

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

I am an independent author. As to why, I think I was always daunted by traditional publishing. I felt like I had no clue how or where to begin, who to approach, and so forth. So when I learned about independent publishing in 2012, I knew that was the way to go for me.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I am currently writing FOUR books right now.

For the Peers of Beinan Series, I am continuing work on book three, “Princess Anyu Returns.” Book two, “Ghosts of the Past” ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I know folks are eager for Returns. You can read deleted scenes and chapters from Returns in “The Lost Tales.” I am taking my time with this book because the story and the world building needs to be up to my meticulous standards. Making this book especially complicated for me to write: the exile of Princess Anyu on D425E25 Tertius makes me work from TWO different planetary systems and reference points at the same time. Beinarian units of time, distance, and so forth have to be used even though this alien planet is extremely alien to the princess – with a local solar day being less than 1/5th of a beinor (Beinarian day) long. This is of course very disorienting for her, especially early on, which merits a careful handling.

Once the narrative moves past her exile and we are back on Beinan, I think the writing will go much quicker!

Next, I am writing the third Legendary Women of World History novella, “Empress Wu” which is about the only woman to rule China entirely in her own right. Empress Wu was extraordinary not only for this achievement in the 7th century CE, but she was the first monarch in the world to patronize agriculture as science and academic discipline. Literature written by women thrived through her example and patronage. We really do own a lot to her trailblazing, even though most westerners have never heard of her.

Third, I am working on the second American Stories book with a tentative title of “Charlotte’s Vote.” Charlotte Woodward Pierce was the only signer of the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments from the Convention at Seneca Falls to survive to see women cast their ballots in 1920. Sadly, she was too ill to cast one of her own. Charlotte’s Vote is the story of how American women gained many of the human rights we take for granted. If you know nothing about American women’s history, you will find this an eye-opening read. In the meantime, I suggest Ken Burns’ documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony called “Not For Ourselves Alone” which is one of the sources I am using for the story.

Finally, I am writing a non-fiction e-book tentatively called “American Poverty: Why American Treatment of the Poor Undermines its Authority as a World Power.” The e-book collects about four essays I wrote for Yahoo Voices on poverty in America, then adds analysis from The Shriver Report and finally draws conclusions about poverty and how this affects America’s reputation abroad.

I have already been labelled a “traitor” by some members of the tea party just for taking on this subject, so I have high hopes it will be as broadly read and debated as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” was during the American War for Independence. In my humble opinion, it is time we stop ignoring poverty and its effects on our society and start caring again for one another. This is something each of us can do something about and is a dialogue we need to have much more of.

 What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

I want to stimulate the sorts of debates and dialogues that lead to social change for the better. I believe in social justice. I believe we make the future what we want to make it with every choice in every day. We can convert our lawns into gardens and not only provide our own diets with fresher and healthier food, but give that which we cannot eat to those who are struggling to have enough to eat. We can be kinder, more compassionate, and less judgmental. And we can believe again in the future.

If there is a recurring theme across my books, it is HOPE. No matter how dark or how much death and pain is around you, there is always a reason to hope and believe in a better future. So I want to create cultures of hope around the world.

Author social media/website

Find Laurel’s books on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Laurel-A.-Rockefeller/e/B008YVJJFE, on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/laurelarockefeller, and on GoodReads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6569976.Laurel_A_Rockefeller or visit her websites at http://www.peersofbeinan.com and http://www.legendarywomenbooks.com, her blog at http://peersofbeinan.wordpress.com/, or on social media.

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/peersofbeinan/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurelworlds

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/legendarywomenofworldhistory and https://www.facebook.com/PeersOfBeinan

Sunday Interview – Marjorie F.Baldwin


Sweet A.T.Weaver apologized for being long-winded and today’s guest also mentioned she was ready to cut some of her words. But you know what, ladies? This is your spotlight, and you can ramble as much as you please! I’m a writer, I know what it means when you just can’t stop because you’re writing about what you love. So I will stop rambling myself, apologize to the author for NOT reading her book yet – it’s on that infamous TBR pile a.k.a. my Smashwords library, sigh – and let you enjoy today’s guest. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Marjorie F.Baldwin!

Where do you live and write from?

North Carolina, on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. At least, for now. I’d like to move to Europe for a while and travel around a bit, then ultimately, retire in the Negev Desert.

When did you start writing?

When I was a kid, very young, I wrote my first story. I started making them up in my head earlier, though. My first character, Joshua Andrew Caine, was a 30-something cross between the Marlboro Man of the 1960s cigarette commercials and the blond version of Richard Chamberlain in Young Doctor Kildaire. Him, I conceived in my mind, fully-blown, when I was about five (in first grade).

As a child, I saw nothing wrong with imagining this fully-grown man in my head but as a middle-aged woman, I have to wonder what was going on in my child-mind that I made up adult characters instead of age-mates. William Harrington followed swiftly behind Joshua (no pun intended) though I did originally imagine them as just “very good friends.” I was an innocent child and definitely did not understand what sex was, let alone “sexual orientation.” Ah, the sweet ignorance! By my teens, I’d really fully-developed both Joshua and William and a half a dozen more characters from the series. Joshua and William were still very good friends, but they were already more than that—I just didn’t know what exactly. I figured out the what—that they were a gay couple—when I was around 20. I started writing the series a year or two later. I was seriously naïve in my teens despite being completely out there in the world (I started clubbing around age 12, in 1972 when there still were night clubs in Boston so I sure had the opportunity to see a lot but I seriously had no clue). I think I found them to be such interesting men and people, I just never really objectified them as sexual targets. Odd, because I usually have no trouble objectifying men as sexual targets (LOL).

What genre(s) do you write?

Science Fiction, more of the Classic SciFi and “psychological” kind than the exploding spaceships stories with alien wars that are so popular today. I write the old-fashioned stuff from the Golden Era—but with a fresh new voice. My voice ^)^ Since I do see humans (not just men) as sexual creatures, however, I have a lot of sex in my stories. It seems to bother some people while Romantic SF has actually grown into a genre unto itself. My SciFi stories don’t follow the “romance novel” format though. They’re more about the Sci in the Fi than the umm, you know what goes in the pie.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Oh, everywhere. All of life is story fodder. Living life keeps me full of ideas. Oddly, though, I’m coming to realize I never really read much of the works by female authors who are my age mates. It’s weird to discover this 30 years later as I begin to get my work published myself. I think we were all influenced by the same things, but in my teens and 20s, when I was really writing full-length novels at full speed, one after another, I read almost exclusively male science fiction authors or non-fiction works.

I never read the big names that started out in the 70s and 80s: Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, and my now-favorite, Lois McMaster Bujold not to mention a host of others who won major awards while I was working white collar middle management jobs and writing “art for art’s sake” (not to share or publish). I wrote a lot, daily at least, more so on the weekends but I’d frequently go a day or two without sleep and just write for 12 hours in between my day job shifts. I worked in offices at unchallenging secretarial jobs back then, before I went to college. I had plenty of time to rest my brain at work (LOL)

During the 80s and 90s, I read a lot more of the scientific journals and other non-fiction (history) than I did fiction authors. I think if I’d read something like Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy (Lilith’s Brood) which I just read this year, either before or during the time I was originating The Phoenician Series, I would have decided to be “lazy” (like I think she was) and not have bothered writing in any of the actual science in my science fiction.

John Campbell would have rolled over in his grave to see Butler’s trilogy called “science fiction” because there’s no actual science in it. There’s a vague reference to it, sideways, but conversational hand-waving does not a science fiction story make. Back then, just knowing Campbell was out there and might read something of mine one day, even just “by accident,” made me feel like I had to live up to what I call the Campbell Standard of science in my SciFi. Campbell summarily rejected better stories than Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy for a lack of scientific basis. I wanted to be good enough for the Campbell Standard, so I focused on learning as much science as I could. In fact, that’s why I got a degree in Mechanical Engineering: for the first-hand knowledge of the math and sciences required. It just so happens I truly enjoy subjects like chemistry and physics, though, so it worked out all right. I just think the universe is a fascinating set of contradictions once you learn how it all works!

Do you have a specific writing routine?

Not really. I’m actually in the process of redefining my writing habits into a routine I can follow. I want to learn how to outline, how to plan, how to schedule pieces so I can divvy up my life into bite-sized pieces. I’m not sure I can be truly creative that way. We shall see how “organizing my art” actually works out for me ((smirk)) I’m a practically compulsive type of planner and scheduler in the rest of my life. I have no idea why I never applied my management skills to my writing. Probably because I’m afraid I’ll squash the creativity.

I’ve never specifically assigned myself a task to complete (i.e., write thus and such a scene today, then that one tomorrow, etc.) I’ve always just sat down and written whatever might pop into my head, usually starting at “The End” and working back towards the plot climax, then I skip around writing scenes, then I fill in the middle, and lastly, I try to write an opener that makes sense for the book I’ve already sketched out. It’s a system that has worked extremely well for me, but it’s hardly one I’d call “specific” or “routine.” I don’t even know if I could duplicate this process with any reliability. So I’m working on developing a reliable routine I can duplicate, predict, schedule and evaluate for effectiveness. Yeah, I’m that compulsively organized! So far, I’m doing all promo and no writing. I think this system is broken (haha) Wait, is this thing on?

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I answered the first question already and as to the second: very fast! I can easily turn out a first draft of 120,000 to 150,000 words in 3-4 weeks—assuming I don’t need to work a day job or do anything else. If my books are self-supporting, I could turn out multiple books very quickly. I am never—I repeat, n-e-v-e-r—at a loss for ideas or words to write. Or at least in my 51 years of life and 42 years of writing, I have never once attempted to write and been “unable” to do so. I’ve been distracted by real-life emergencies (you know, like work and buying or eating food) but my mind has never been unable to conceive of a story if I allow it to run unfettered.

I don’t edit while writing. I know a lot of writers do. I don’t. Deliberately. After I churn out the initial material, I go through numerous drafts honing and fine-tuning and tweaking sentences and correcting typos and filling in things I forgot to mention, etc. That’s all editing of one form or another and not writing; I edit very slowly. It’s quite a different beast than writing. I call writing “creative” while editing is “destructive.” Mostly I think they are opposites because I don’t care what I churn out during “writing” but I try to be ruthless in my slaughter during “editing.” It doesn’t always work. I need outside help for the “wet work” I think.

On that note, I’m just starting to work with others on the editing process. I’ve never done that before. I’ve always solicited people to read but not to edit. I call these people First Readers (FRs) because they like/read the kinds of stuff I write and take a look at my work then make comments. I don’t allow them access to the files or allow them to do any real editing of the content, so basically, it’s like getting early reviews and then changing the book.

Now, however, I’m working with people who are attempting to edit me, and are either professional editors or want to be professional editors. It’s a learning experience for both me and some of them. After more than a quarter century, I’m pretty good at posing questions to guide readers into the process of critiquing rather than giving opinions. With editors, however, I’m still learning how to exploit what they have to offer without losing months worth of time going through their changes afterwards and having to put things back the way I had them when I don’t agree with their suggested changes. Bottom line, after turning over a file once, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. I think I’ll stick to the process that has worked for me for over 25 years.

I find the very best editor or editorial assistance will be when someone explains to me what’s wrong and then leaves it up to me to figure out how to fix it, rather than telling me what’s wrong and how they think it should be changed. It’s a subtle grey line between advice-giving and the realm of the AuthorGod’s creative license. I think an editor who “rewrites” an Author has overstepped their bounds. At least with me. With that in mind, I can say I’ve been truly blessed to find editorial help that works precisely the way I do. Cassie McCown at Gathering Leaves and I are a perfect match! Well, we’ll be a perfect match once I can afford to pay her what she’s worth—which ain’t cheap! She’s amazing.

I confess I do have one friend I’ve known online for about 25 years but have never met in person. Because he and I have communicated exclusively in writing and done so for a quarter of a century, he is uniquely qualified to practically read my mind when I leave a word out or misstate something. He knows what I mean rather than what I wrote. It’s like magic. We still misunderstand each other in email, though. It’s hilarious. I am currently a porcupine. May I shed my quills and use them for Good (writing) not Evil? Only time will tell!

Tell us about your latest book (add link if published)

I’ve just released the first of my Classic SciFi/Thrillers in The Phoenician Series: Conditioned Response which yes, is Book 2 of the series. The books were all written years ago, when I was 20ish, and centered around this one character I mentioned earlier named Joshua Andrew Caine. He’s a little more pompous now than he was when I first imagined him. As a teenager, I had a big crush on Dudley Do-Right (the blond Canadian Mounted Police man in the cartoons). I think I liked Dudley Do-Right because Joshua was a blond, not the other way around, though I definitely lifted a few of Dudley’s Good Guy traits to endow Joshua with some angelic qualities. He’s none of that now; he’s completely full of himself in Conditioned Response.

I haven’t written Book 1 yet. Conditioned Response was edited in 2005 both for a change to the setting (I took it off-Earth) and to create a new tossaway character, some “guy on the street” named Raif, who is a Proctor, or basically a cop (there’s that Dudley Do-Right thing again). As soon as I got Raif written down on the page, the guy outshined Joshua to the point of pushing him right off the pages of the entire book! Raif, I guess, took Joshua’s place as the central male character in Conditioned Response.

In fact, Raif took over enough I needed to renumber the books and make Conditioned Response Book 2 so that I could write a whole book just for Raif which will be Book 1. It’ll come out in 2013 (I hope!) What I have done is begin to go back in time, writing prequels. It’s really fun. Theoretically, I could do this indefinitely. I won’t, but I could.

I plan to release Book 1 next and then move forward with the series in its normal chronological order. Since the later books are already written and just need to be edited, I estimate a 6-9 month per book schedule but it could take longer. We’ll have to see. I won’t release something halfway done.

The universe of The Phoenician Series is still centered around Joshua Andrew Caine—he’d have it no other way!—but Book 1 will be Joshua’s past, who he was, has been, will have to resolve to end being. In Book 2, Conditioned Response, Raif will be Joshua’s present; and in Book 3, Brennan will become Joshua’s future. I cannot tell you who is the central male lead character in Book 4 or I’ll be giving away the end of the series ((grin)) The point is that the entire series keeps coming back to Joshua Andrew Caine.

Because of this, it occurred to me to write a prequel talking about Joshua, kind of to tide people over while I work on editing Book 1. I’m about halfway through writing a short story titled When Minds Collide which will tell the story of how Joshua Andrew Caine came into existence. He didn’t always used to be … the man you meet in Conditioned Response.

I’ve got a snippet of the early draft opening paragraphs for When Minds Collide on Goodreads. I’ll be releasing that as a free giveaway through Smashwords, so it’ll be at all of the regular eTailer sites (e.g., iTunes, Kobo, Nook, etc.) I’ll upload it directly to the Amazon Kindle store but they don’t like to let Indie Authors price books as “free” unless we join/enroll in their program granting them exclusive rights for a period of 90 days (3 months). I don’t see the point in limiting my readers on purpose so I’m going with the 99c option I guess. Whatever it takes. Smashwords will allow me to make it free. Get it there 🙂 Or read the intro sample here and now if you just can’t wait to get more of The Phoenician Series.

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

Indie for now, definitely. In part, it’s a control issue and partly it’s an impatience issue. I don’t have the patience to query a publisher (who will take 85% or more of my profits off the top) and then wait 3 months to be told “No, we won’t look at your work” and not have a clue as to why not.

Nor do I want to waste time to solicit agents who will take 12.5% of my remaining 15% only to have some agent tell me my work needs to be changed like this and that and the other thing. Why? So they can sell it to their good buddy at thus-and-such a known publishing house instead of going out and working to find my market where they already exist? There are readers out there for nearly everything. You just have to find them—and an agent works with people he or she already knows. The traditional publishing model is absolutely all about “who you know” not “what you write.”

I’d rather deliver the entire set of books in The Phoenician Seriesmy way and then let the work speak for itself. If a traditional publisher wants to approach me, I can guarantee them I have a few dozen more books “in the drawer” already set to be professionally edited into salable and marketable format. The ideas I had in my teens and 20s are still fresh and original from what I’ve read. I’m a pretty voracious reader but I have to confess, I haven’t been interested in much of the cookie cutter stuff of the last ten or so years. I still enjoy my own work. Repeatedly.

If a publisher like Tor/Forge or even a smaller one like Baen Books approached me, I’d definitely take the meeting and think long and hard about how I can sell them some of my books without sacrificing my established brand. There’s always a pen name. Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m already doing that! (LOL)

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

I am both an Indie Author and an Indie Publisher, with some plans in the future to publish other Indie Authors. As such, I know what it takes to market a book and you don’t try to sell apples to people who love bananas. It just doesn’t work. There are so many people who love apples, why even try? Just go to your market instead of expecting your market to come to you. It’s so upsidedown sometimes.

I want to release my first work myself but that doesn’t mean I want to keep doing it all myself. I’d rather write more books! (LOL) I guess my real long-term goal is to get a traditional publisher to take over my marketing and promotion or better yet, get a sufficient and ongoing stream of revenue from my books that I can just hire a PR firm full-time to do it all. I can run an Indie Publishing house and write books if I hire a PR firm to do the promotion and marketing.

In fact, I’d like to hire someone else to do all of the crap that goes with being a small business owner—and being an Indie Author, not to mention an Indie Publisher, is definitely being a small business owner. Then I can focus on writing the next book. That’s my goal. Write full-time without sacrificing the need to stay in business.

I’m just over 50 now. Even with my lightning speeds, I can’t possibly write and release all of the books I have in me before I die. I have too many books in my head and more arriving every day! That’s not bragging. That’s the reality I live with: I don’t have enough time left to write everything I want to write. It’s both exciting and sad.

I have a solid handle on the promotional activity and simply need to spend the time and effort on it. Promoting a book is a full-time job. Promoting and writing is more than a full-time job. Promoting and writing and reading and learning and living life…that’s more than 3 full-time jobs. My future is definitely going to include hiring a PR firm for the marketing and promotion stuff. I’ll handle the rest of that list myself. With pleasure.((grin))

Links to Friday Baldwin:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FridayBaldwin or

http://www.facebook.com/PhoenicianSeries

Twitter: @phoenicianbooks

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/marjoriefbaldwin

Blog: The Phoenician Series Blog

Read a free sample of Conditioned Response available in all eBook formats via Smashwords: http://bit.ly/SW-CondResp

Story Carnival


This is taken from Shafali the Caricaturist’s blog. In case you didn’t know, every month she posts a caricature, inviting authors to write the story of the drawing… So here is this month’s caricature (and the rules):

After putting my thinking cap on, I decided to rewrite a scene from a novel-turned-screenplay (which means I took both from the original novel in Italian and from the screenplay in English to write this short bit of prose). Hope it can stands on its own. I haven’t rewritten the whole thing yet, because it’s sci-fi and I’m still mulling about this future. It is our planet, though… enjoy.

Robin & Beth

extract from Soul Stealers by Barbara G.Tarn

 

The terrace restaurant was almost all for them. Robin and Beth looked down from various angles, admiring the 22nd century landscape: New York was now only the isle of Manhattan, all around it the buildings had been destroyed and nature had taken back the land. The bridges were still there, taking few futuristic flying cars into the wild.

The sun set and robots switched on candles on the restaurant tables.

“I’m hungry, how about you?” Beth asked.

“Yes, let’s go,” Robin smiled.

He offered her his arm like a perfect gentleman.

“Where did you learn such old fashioned good manners?” she inquired, pleasantly surprised.

“I saw a movie,” he grinned. “It’s called A love-story from the past, very useful on 20th century manners.”

She took his arm, amused. The movie that had made them meet. If only he hadn’t forced her to retire it. She was still fond of it… especially now that he had looked her up after their not so great last meeting.

“Really? It’s not just another Cinderella story?” she asked.

“Maybe, but I like it.”

“But we’re not in the 20th century anymore.”

“We are where we want to be. We only have to ask and we’ll have 20th century waiters attending us. We can have anything we want thanks to computers, remember?”

They stopped by a table for two and sat down.

“So, you’re looking for a friendship now?” Her smile slowly vanished and she felt nervous again.

“Yeah. What about you, what are you looking for?” He was serious too now.

She shrugged.

“Friendship, I guess,” she said. “My mistake, I should have stuck to my holograms.”

“Why? You don’t like real people?”

“Not really. I don’t like being touched.”

“Can’t blame you…”

***

In the control room Shadya sat at the computer, with Bolton standing behind her, curious.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Instructing the kitchen,” was the cold reply. “They’ll never make it without a little help.”

“Are you blaming me for damaging one subject?”

“They’re both damaged. An aphrodisiac in their meal will take care of it.”

***

Dinner over, Beth and Robin left the table and walked towards the balcony again. They looked at the city lights and the ocean.

“My house is over there,” she said, pointing down.

“Mine too at the moment,” he said.

She smiled. They were very close.

She shivered, he noticed.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

“No, I’m fine.”

He held her closer and kissed her.

Breathless, Beth hugged him, sinking her fingers in his hair. She thought she hated kisses, and here she was, hungry and eager and happy to feel his body against hers. It wasn’t like her virtual lover, he was real, warm, and so different from what she had imagined…

She pulled back, keeping him at arm’s length to catch her breath.

“Are you all right?” he asked, concerned.

“Yeah, give me a minute,” she panted.

“I’m sorry, I got carried away. I forgot I have to be careful.”

“You… remember what I said?” she worried.

He smiled.

“Every word. There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said.

“My friends advised me not to tell you.”

“When you told me, there was nothing between us and no reason to think there ever could be. And it doesn’t change anything now, I should calm down myself. I’m excited because I haven’t felt like this in years, but I don’t want to spoil it all by hurrying.”

Of course, he had never looked for a substitute for Pauline, therefore he had had no sex for five years.

He averted his eyes and pulled back a little more.

“I think we had enough emotions for tonight,” he added. “Maybe we should go home before we overdose…”

No!, someone screamed inside her. She grabbed his face and started kissing him all over, overwhelmed by her own desire. On that roof, under the stars, she discovered reality was much better than imagination.

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