Confessions of a Science Geek

Did you know I’m a self-confessed science geek? If you’ve met me, I’m pretty sure you do. In fact, it becomes a little obvious when you read my near-science fiction trilogy (science-based speculative fiction that feels like it could happen now in our modern world) and my current WIP, which is a science fantasy time-slip parallel narrative. What may surprise you is that there have been times I’ve been at reader-writer events and felt like a fish out of water.

What may also surprise you is that science fiction isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (I know, right?) At some events I not only have to explain what my techno-thriller novels are about, I find myself talking a lot about the genre and where my novels fit. But not this weekend just gone!

Have you heard of Oz Comic-Con? I had, but until science-fiction author friend, Lynne Stringer, and fantasy/science fiction author friend, Jeanette O’Hagan, contacted me, I didn’t realise the event had anything to do with books. How wrong I was—and it’s been a blast.

My enjoyment of this event was for multiple reasons. It was my first Oz Comic-Con and I was there with friends. Writers, if you’re ever going to a new event as an exhibitor, consider sharing your stall (if possible) with an author friend or two in a suitable genre. Not only could we take breaks and cover for each other (we even got to meet & greet with other stall exhibitors), we found if one of us didn’t have the type of story a reader was interested in, the other might, and usually did. The other fantastic factor was the attendees spoke our language!

Now, I’ve been to signings or events where there are heaps of booklovers in attendance, but rarely have I spoken to so many people with an interest in science at a single event, let alone science fiction. In fact, if the attendees who visited our stall weren’t into science fiction, they were into fantasy—or both! Sure, I still had to tell people about my stories, but it was amazing having them so familiar with a genre they’d break in partway to clarify exactly where the novels fit. Some knew just the sort of books they liked and were happy to try a new author like me (or Jeanette or Lynne). (Happy author heart … Love sharing stories with people who are excited about reading them. <3 <3)

The other fantastic factor, and the one that remains the highlight whatever event I’m attending, were the people. SO many new faces and stories (life-stories, that is) and some seriously cool names. And then there were the amazing costumes. Like, wow!

Folks, I think I’ve found my literary tribe. Don’t worry readers, I won’t neglect my other author connections, but honestly, this was serious fun. Next time you’ll have to come along for the ride!

TP Hogan Interview

This post I have the absolute delight of interviewing urban fantasy author, TP Hogan. TP’s unique work burst into my world three years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since. I know you’re going to love her novels too. Welcome TP!

1. What genre do you write and why?

I like to claim ‘speculative fiction’, it covers a lot – Paranormal, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Sci Fi, Steampunk and Horror. It has a lot of wriggle room to be creative. So far I have one Paranormal novel out, and an Urban Fantasy series.

Oh, by the way – just because a lot of people ask ‘what is Urban Fantasy’ – it’s fantastical (with ‘magic’ instead of technology) stories set in ‘our’ world (historical, now or futuristic) rather than a made up world. Think ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Fallen’.

The why is kind of a long story.

When I started writing I thought I would write romance. At the time, I read a heck of a lot of romance, and it seemed natural. I wrote one romance (still to be published – maybe) and sat down to write the second and realised the ‘boy meets girl’ sorts of stories wasn’t what I wanted to explore. I had to think a long time on the stories I actually liked to read, aside from the romances. The long time was because I’m a voracious reader and there’s a lot I like. Finally I realised I loved the ‘hidden world’ stories – the world in a world, hidden just beneath the surface of what we think is reality…and ‘speculative fiction’ covers that.

Can you tell us a little bit about your previous works and what inspired them?

Sure. Just be warned, asking me to talk about my books could result in an extremely long answer. I’ll try to keep it short (ish).

Shattered
This one is a Paranormal story about a man (Bastian Ashcombe) who is trapped behind the mirrors of Ashcombe manor and the woman (Mattie Holmes) who is trying to break the curse and set him free.

This one was inspired by a Jon English song called ‘Carmilla’. Part of the lyrics are – “…the man in the mirror says you’re my friend…” and as I heard them I thought ‘what if a woman looked into a mirror and saw a man instead of her reflection?’

Nephilim Code
(Nova, Edward, Zeph)
This series is an Urban Fantasy where Nephilim are real, some want to live ‘normal’ lives and some want to rule humanity like they did in the days of old, and both factions are on the hunt for a living Angel.

This one was inspired far too many years ago, long before I even thought I could be an Author. As a kid I loved the stories of the Greek and Roman gods (still do, although it’s been years since I’ve read one), and because the two cultures had many gods who were so similar, I thought they must have once been real people. I didn’t think they were real ‘gods’ but people who were special in some way. I just never figured out what was special about them.

That was until ‘Nephilim’ came into my sights. In two biblical references (Genesis and Numbers) they are described as the offspring between the sons of man and Angels…and as the ‘men of renown and heroes of old’. That small description triggered the thought ‘what if this is what made the Greek and Roman gods ‘special’…they were Nephilim’. (I’ve since learned that this isn’t an original theory, but I didn’t know that at the time.)

That lead to a little project with my husband (who has a theological background and a strong interest in history and industrial archology) and we tracked a theoretical timeline to see if it was possible for Nephilim to be around in the days of the Greek and Roman gods. As a bit of side-line fun (never denied being a geek) we took the timeline and looked for plausible ways that the Nephilim could end up in Australia.
When we actually succeeded in that (with a bit of poetic licence, I have to admit), it became the inspiration which became the series.

Out of those works, what was your favourite story and why?

That’s a hard question to answer. It’s on par with trying to decide my favourite child. Each has their parts that I love. Edward (Nephilim Code #2) was my first attempt at writing from a male point of view (and a character who is the complete polar opposite of me), and I’m very proud of how that turned out…but I think I like writing puzzles best. They are the most fun. So that would have to be a decision between Shattered and Zeph (Nephilim Code #3). I think I’ll go with Zeph, that one has a full on ‘treasure hunt’ style adventure in it and the clues were a lot of fun to set up.

What has been the most difficult part of your publication (and/or writing) journey?

Believing in myself.

To this day, with four books out and one on the way, I feel like a fraud. Doubts are very good at rearing their ugly heads. I’m not a good writer. I don’t write dark gritty, grab you by the throat and spill your blood books. I get confused when someone starts to talk ‘pronoun cases’ and ‘subject-verb-object sentences’ and I wear out the comma key on my editor’s keyboard. I graduated with an ‘A’ in high school English, but have no further qualifications in writing. No university degree in literature. I sometimes stare at my page as I’m writing and wonder if I’m any good at this at all.

The other day, I finished writing my next book. To get myself out of that world, I went back and re-read the Nephilim Code. I laughed and I cried. And not once did I wince over the story or the characters. I enjoyed it and still can’t believe I wrote it.

I love writing, and I love being in a world hidden within a world, exploring the characters and their journeys. I love fan interactions and having the chance to talk about my books with anyone who stands still long enough. It’s amazing that I get to do something like this, but those doubts can get pretty loud sometimes.

In your writing process, are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?

A ‘plantser’, maybe? Somewhere in between with a severe bent towards a pantser.
I know from experience that working out a predetermined overview just doesn’t work for me. It causes writer’s block for some reason. I think because I write character driven stories, not plot driven ones.

My most important prep are my character overviews, and they can take months. If I really know my characters, and what drives them then I’ll know how they’ll react to being dumped into the middle of a plot and left to their own devises.

I like to have an overview of the direction I’m going with the story. What the important moments are – I call them my story beats. Mostly that will be in the form of a list or bullet points. I’ll have some research done prior which relate to the story beats, and I’m more than willing to do further research as I go, if needed. While I’m writing I’ll have a file that I’ll add important details to, so I don’t get them lost as I go along. For example, in Nova (Nephilim Code #1), Nova ‘sees’ Nephilim abilities as colours. So I could remember which colour meant which ability, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of them all.

After that, I sit back and let my characters have free reign. So long as they take me in the general direction of my story beats, then it’s all good. Although, sometimes they do take off on their own, and I don’t mind that. If I like where they’re taking me, I’ll adjust the story beats. If I don’t like where they’re taking me I’ll pull them back into line, which most of the time does mean re-writing, but that’s half the fun.

What should we expect next from TP Hogan?

What if Thylacine (Tasmanian Tigers) weren’t extinct, but were shifters trapped in human form? That’s the ‘what if’ question which inspired my next book, Extinct. If all goes to plan, it should be released on 7th October 2017.

Thanks so much for sharing your writing with us, TP. I look forward to reading your newbie!

TP Hogan writes speculative fiction. This allows her to escape…and explore hidden worlds, inhabited by the creatures of her imagination, and she invites you to join her in these realms. She has penned such stories as Shattered, Nephilim Code and Extinct.
When she does step owlishly into reality it is to mess about with baking ideas, play violin, drink copious amounts of coffee and remember that there is a whole other world to explore, in the guise of the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Queensland, Australia. She shares her home with her husband and an ever expanding urban backyard garden.
TP Hogan loves talking to readers and writers and you can find to her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

Blood Crystal Blog Tour

How exciting to be a part of the blog tour for new release Blood Crystal by Jeanette O’Hagan. I trust you’ve been following along and collecting your scavenger hunt clues (check below for details and today’s clue), along with prizes offered by host authors along the way.

Following on from David Rawling’s tour blog, today I have the privilege of interviewing secondary character from Blood Crystal, Lady Zara. Let’s make her feel welcome.

Lady Zara, thank you for agreeing to speak about the recent events below the mountain. It must be difficult living under the rule of Overseer Havilah, as the daughter of the conquered former leader, Uzza. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask some questions. I’ll take your haughty nod as permission. No need to glare.

Question one. Overseer Havilah seems to have some ‘interesting’ family dynamics to manage with her sons. What do you think of her as a leader? Does she have the best intentions for the Earthbiter people, or is she swayed too much by the opinions of her boys, especially Putarn?

What do you mean ‘Earthbiter’? Such a strange and rude term. And don’t talk to me about Havilah, a common toolwun with ideas above her station and capabilities. Though you are right about those sons of hers, especially that Putarn – such an unimpressive fellow with a scrappy beard and unpleasant manner, always with an angry scowl. His ideas are simply ludicrous.

Apologies for seeming rude. I’d heard the Forest Folk use this term and thought … well … perhaps we’d best move onto question two. Scrybe Barekia, who repaired the Crystal Heart during your father’s … ah … strategic retreat, seems to have doubts about the crystal’s continued function. Now there are rumours of a sacrifice being required of the ‘true seed’. What do you make of this?

Well! I have no idea what this nonsense is about the ‘true seed’, but both my honoured father and grandfather made it clear that sacrifices are needed to appease the Dark Ones and keep the Crystal Heart functioning. Unpleasant as the thought is, it is surely better than the whole realm dying? I’m not at all surprised these upstarts are having difficulties. When my father puts them in their place, he’ll get the Heart working again.

Oooookay … that seems somewhat … alarming, I mean … Question three. The Prentice twins, Delvina and Retza, often seem to find themselves in the middle of trouble. In fact, I understand Retza’s been quite the hero as far as you’re concerned. What do you think of the twins and their quest to find answers from the Forest Folk?

So they are twins are they? They do seem common and rather blunt, but Retza did defend me and my little brother Jesson against that horrid Javot’s treachery. Excuse me a moment. It was rather distressing incident. Yes, a sip of water would be welcome. Mind you, I was getting the best of Javot. I am quite capable of defending myself and my brother. Still, Retza’s intervention was timely. Some might find him nice-looking and strong for a common prentice.

That wasn’t quite the version I heard from—

As for seeking help from the Forest Folk, going outside the mountain tunnels is unheard of. Even if it’s possible, it seems foolish and perilous. My grandfather warned of the dangers of the outsiders and their covetous eyes on our wealth, which is why he closed off our realm many years ago and forbade all talk of the outside.

I see. Question four. You might remember Forest dweller, Zadeki, from his brief time under the mountain when he was brought there by the twins after being injured. How do you feel about Zadeki and his capacity to shape-shift? Do you think his people will be able to offer answers to help repair the heart? Is this something that worries you?

Is that what that freakish, silver-skinned stranger was called? Zadeki? An outlandish name and so tall, but no chin hairs to speak of. I do remember him transforming into a horrid, big, furry creature with giant paws and great big teeth in the Sunken Temple. Jaguar, my father called it. It gives me nightmares to think of it.

Frankly, I am a little worried. I doubt such savage people could help us and what if they decide to come back to eat us all and steal our treasures? But then, such a foolhardy mission to the outside will surely fail. And, any day now, my father will come back and restore everything to how it should be.

I see. Well, thanks for your time, Lady Zara. I’ll let you get back to … whatever it is you do now you’re a guarded prisoner of the new order.

You are welcome, I suppose. I look after my poor injured brother and think of ways we can escape to my father. I’m not at all concerned with these petty people, certainly not young prentices like Retza.

Blood Crystal Scavenger Hunt (clue #7 below!) will run throughout the Blood Crystal Blog Tour. Each blog will have a reflection or memory related to themes within Blood Crystal – and a related question. The first person to answer all NINE questions correctly will win a $50 Amazon voucher. The runner up will receive copies of both Heart of the Mountain and the sequel Blood Crystal. Follow each post on the blog tour to find the questions & list your answers in the comments on the final blog post of the tour on 28 July.

Next tour blog stop is Adam Collings (Adam does cool stuff like video interviews). Don’t forget there’s also opportunity to win prizes at each blogspot, including this one!

Scavenger Hunt Clue #7: My current work in progress is a YA slipstream sci-fi fantasy novel, parallelling the lives of two young people from different centuries through a peculiar connection. A significant portion of the historical story revolves around mining in Queensland. Mining ventures must entail management of toxic by-products, which historically has not always been done well. An Australian example of an undesirable mining legacy is the pollution of Dee River. What is the name of the mine associated with this environmental disaster?

Blog Post Prize Opportunity: Comment on this post for your chance to receive a copy of one of my YA techno-thriller Blaine Colton trilogy novels, either Integrate, Replicate or Activate – winner (one person who comments who will be randomly selected) gets to choose which novel they receive.

Bio: Jeanette O’Hagan has published fantasy novellas, including Heart of the Mountain and Blood Crystal, short stories and poems published in various Anthologies, including Tied in Pink Romance Anthology (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research); Poetica Christi’s Inner Child; Brio anthology, Another Time Another Place, Let the Sea Roar, Glimpses of Light and Plan Australia’s Like a Girl. She has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She cares for her Family, has a Masters of Arts (Writing) from Swinburne University and is writing her Akrad’s fantasy fiction series. You can read some of her short fiction here
connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads or amazon or at JennysThread.com or Jeanette O’Hagan Writes.

Write Time – A Case of Extremes

I am so excited to be hosting another guest blog series. This time last year, guest bloggers shared inspiring and humorous reflections on their ‘Write Life’ . This year the theme is ‘Write Time’.

As I’ve discovered in life, timing is everything. Time is also one of our most precious commodities. Writing in season, and finding time to make it happen, is a constant juggle. Over the coming weeks we’ll hear from a diverse group of authors as they reflect on this theme. And like me, I’m sure you can’t wait.

JeanetteOHaganWrites250My first guest blogger is one you might know. Jeanette O’Hagan is a gifted author who writes across a diverse range of genres, and she’s had a full-to-overflowing writing year. (While still managing to be superwoman without the cape!)  I could say more, but I think it’s time to hand over to our guest. Thanks Jeanette!

From one extreme to another.

This year my ‘write times’ have seesawed from intense focus to being swallowed up in other tasks. In some ways, it’s the equivalent of kangaroo-hopping down the road (for those of you who remember their first lessons in a car with manual gears).

Five months – just five months of this year did my writing get the my highest priority – in January with the Month of Poetry (over thirty poems written some of which have since been short-listed or achieved an award), in March and April I wrote three short stories for a couple of anthologies, in July it was Camp NaNoWriMo as I dusted off novel 3 and wrote 30,000 words, coming within cooee of finishing my first draft, and November was NaNaWriMo, with another 50,000 words on novel 5.

As the words began to flow during NaNo, I remembered once again why I love writing— it’s fun, exhilarating, entertaining, inspiring.

Let the sea roarSo what about those other months? Family, friends, faith, community— yes all these things take time—but what has really eaten up the hours is other writing related activities. I finished off my writing course (MA) and started another (Year of the Edit). I have been involved in editing, proofing and/or publishing anthologies (to different degrees of involvement)—Another Time Another Place, Let the Sea Roar, Glimpses of Light and Like a Girl. I’ve needed to edit my own stories and follow the suggestions of my crit friends and editors. I’ve attended conferences, festivals and retreats. I’ve taken time to set up my writing as a business and make plans for next year.

Reflecting on 2015 I’ve come to a greater understanding of my writing process:
I work well to deadlines – especially those where I’m accountable to others.
I feel alive when I write and I want this to stay a vital part of my life.

Yet writing a first draft of a story, poem or novel is just the first step in a complex process. If I want to be serious about writing, if I want to write for others as well as for myself— I have to take it to another level and that means learning my craft, networking with other writers, giving back to the community, editing my work, working out how to publish and promote it. I need to factor those times in as well as regular writing times.GOLCover

Family, friends, faith, health, community matter too. If I steal from these areas in my life for too long or too often, I’m likely to crash and burn rather than be in this for the long term.

I need balance.

In hindsight, I don’t think I’ll try to publish two anthologies (plus involvement in three others) in one year again.

Maybe moving forward in kangaroo hops is not a bad thing (especially if you are a kangaroo ‘grin’) but I’d like to smooth out the curves a little. Those other things—learning, networking, editing, publishing—are part of the journey which I also enjoy doing.

As a wise person once said ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.’ Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

Tied in Pink_JennyJeanette O’Hagan has short stories and poems published (or about to be published) in various anthologies, including Tied in Pink Romance Anthology (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research); Poetica Christi’s Inner Child; Brio anthology, Another Time Another Place, Let the Sea Roar, Glimpses of Light and Plan Australia’s Like a Girl. She has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She cares for her school-aged children, has a Masters of Arts (Writing) at Swinburne University and is writing her Akrad’s fantasy fiction series. You can read some of her short fiction here.
You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or at JennysThread.com or Jeanette O’Hagan Writes or Twitter.

Herding Cats

JeanetteOHaganWrites250This week’s ‘Write Life’ guest blogger is emerging author, Jeanette O’Hagan. Jeanette’s approach to writing is remarkably intellectual and detail focussed, yet incredibly imaginative. Make sure you’ve got your pre-orders in the day her novels spin off the press – that is, once she’s done wrangling felines into order. Thanks, Jeanette. 🙂

 

A random thought. Writing is a bit like herding cats.

Well, at the moment it seems a lot like it to me. Over the last six weeks I feel like I’ve been skating from one urgent task to another – from kitchen renovations gone AWOL, family responsibilities and visits, study commitments, conferences, camps, retreats, birthday celebrations (a 5th and a 94th) and NaNoWriMo. Not to mention doing final edits and proofs on my first published story (a short story in the Tied in Pink anthology), follow-up on editorial appointments, hot weather and storms. It hasn’t been all bad – in fact, a lot of it has been wonderful: like being cheered on as I finished NaNo at the Writers Retreat, looking forward to my first publishing credit, or spending time with my family. Even so, it has been frenetic, a tad chaotic and draining.

So as I sit down to write this post, my thoughts are scattering all over the place, heading off in a thousand and one different directions and tipping their feline noses in the air at the very thought of cohering into anything rational – let alone brilliant, scintillating or inspirational. And sometimes, being a writer is just like that – juggling the demands of life with the need to find the head-space to write or juggling different ideas and images that pull away in different directions.

And so I reflect that writing at times is about forgetting about herding and just letting go. Maybe letting go of some of those riotous ideas for now – and allowing space for others. Or maybe, letting go of the need to arrange the cats – ahem, ideas – into neat, orderly and perfect rows. Or letting go of the need to impress or to control and allowing the ideas to lead. After all, in the beginning of all this, I didn’t choose to be a writer. Rather, the stories chose me. They were my invisible companions through most of my childhood – a way of sublimating angst and uncertainties into fantastical adventures; a way of growing in understanding of the Great Storyteller who calls me to be a part of His story.

And then it occurs to me, that maybe ‘herding cats’ could apply to groups of writers as well. Writing is so often by its very nature a solitary pursuit. And while some writers are social loving extroverts, many of us are introverts. Perhaps we like doing things by and for ourselves. Yet one thing I have learnt over the last few years is that we are stronger as writers and go further and last longer if we are willing to boost up each other. Even cats can team up to achieve a goal worth pursuing.

Then again, maybe it’s just that life’s like that. However much we plan it, it has a tendency to take turns we never anticipated and sometimes we have to let go of our plans and trust that God knows what He’s doing.

Tied in Pink_JennyJeanette’s short story ‘The Herbalist Daughter’ is about to be published as part of the Tied in Pink anthology this month (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research). Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad’s fantasy fiction series. You can read some of her short fiction here.
You can find her at her Facebook Page or websites JennysThread.com or Jeanette O’Hagan Writes.