Writing Update

I’ve just completed another two book series which I hope to publish in the last half of 2016. This is something new for me: science fiction set in alternate world Southern Africa, and nothing to do with Crooks & Straights or any of my other books. The series title is “The Babylon Eye” but I have not finalized the titles for each of the books yet. Here is a description of the first book:

Meisje is no ordinary dog. She’s a gardag, a cybernetically enhanced, living weapon. She’s also lost, hungry, and lonely.

Elke Veraart is on Meisje’s trail. If she can find the dog she’ll win back her own freedom. If she fails she’ll be sent back to prison.

As she closes in on the gardag, Elke finds her admiration for Meisje growing. And Meisje, weak with hunger, begins to wonder if she could trust the woman who is hunting her. Then Elke discovers that there are other hunters searching for the gardag and that her orders have changed. She no longer has to find Meisje. She has to kill her.

I have just started the third book in the “Babylon Eye” series and don’t have any immediate plans to write more books in the “Special Branch” or “Sisters” series, but you never know!🙂

If you want to be notified when I launch these books, you can sign up for my New Release Email List 

If you are curious about these new books, here is a link to the visual inspiration for book one and book two.

Meet Science Fiction writer L J Cohen

Today I have a guest!🙂  Writer L J Cohen has kindly let me interview her. She’s just launched her latest book, DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE, book 3 of the Halcyone Space series of science fiction space opera adventures that began with DERELICT and continued with ITHAKA RISING.

Here’s the book description:

When a materials science student gets kidnapped, she’s drawn into a conflict between the young crew of a sentient spaceship, a weapons smuggling ring, and a Commonwealth-wide conspiracy and must escape before her usefulness as a hostage expires. 

Lisa has agreed to give away an ebook copy of one of her books right here on my blog. To participate, leave a comment stating which of her books you’d like, if you win the draw🙂 We’ll pick a winner in 7 day’s time. (If you don’t know which book to pick, see below! There is a short description of each.)

final-kindle-cover-small

Do you write for a particular age group? Who is your ideal reader?
When I started writing, I thought of myself as writing YA novels because so many of my protagonists were older teens. But my stories are transitioning to less true coming of age tales than speculative fiction stories that have some young adult characters. My idea reader is a teen or adult who enjoys character-based adventures in fantasy or futuristic settings. Given the emotional stakes, I wouldn’t recommend most of my books to readers younger than 12, even if they are strong readers, though that is something I leave up to parents/guardians to decide.

Which of your books would you recommend a reader should start with? What is it about?
By the time this gets posted, I will have six novels published. There are three possible entry points to my work: the standalone urban fantasy FUTURE TENSE, THE BETWEEN, book 1 of my fantasy/fae changeling series (Changeling’s Choice), or DERELICT, book 1 of my SF/Space Opera series (Halcyone Space). However, I do attempt to write my series novels in such a way that readers can start anywhere and still have a fully enjoyable experience.

In FUTURE TENSE, a 17 year old foster kid struggles to keep the people around him safe from the danger he glimpses in his prescient visions. THE BETWEEN is the story of what happens when Oberon and Titania pick the wrong changeling to become a pawn in their war and that young girl clings to her stubborn humanity. In DERELICT, a group of teens stranded on a sentient spaceship must work together or risk being killed when the ship’s AI wakes believing it’s still fighting the war that damaged it decades ago.

(You can find all of these books at Lisa’s Amazon Author page)

What qualities do you like using in your characters?
That’s a good question! I like to give my characters traits that have both positive and negative features. For example, Ro Maldonado, the main character in DERELICT and Lydia Hawthorne, the main character in THE BETWEEN both have the traits of stubbornness/persistence. Depending on circumstances, this is either a good thing or a very bad thing!

Jem Durbin, also from the Halcyone Space novels, is curious and creative. While he’s great at problem solving, he doesn’t have the maturity to know that sometimes asking questions can be dangerous. It lands him in some very hot water in ITHAKA RISING. Matt Garrison, from FUTURE TENSE has an almost overdeveloped sense of responsibility. While he never runs away from owning his problems, he also doesn’t let himself rely on others or ask for help, which is nearly his undoing.

I think if a character has only positive or negative character traits, it makes for boring reading.

Some people believe that it’s important that a book have a message beyond just the story itself. How do you feel about that?
I don’t think you can avoid imbuing your writing with messages – writing is only partly a conscious process and our subconscious mind is a very tricky bastard. However, I don’t start out trying to embed a particular message in my writing. Do my stories have a message beyond that of the story itself? I’m sure they do. And those messages are probably as much a result of what I put into the story as what the reader reads into it. I do think I have recurrent motifs and themes that show up in all of my work: identity, trust, and choice. Others don’t get to choose your identity. Trust starts with trusting yourself before you can trust others. And choices made out of fear are almost never the right ones. I’d love to know what messages others see in my work.

Is there anything that you have a “chip on the shoulder”about as a writer?
Stories that rely on tricking the reader to work. I hated The Life of Pi. It was beautifully written, immersive, original, and magical. All up to the final chapter where the author basically popped out and said ‘Ha, tricked you. Aren’t I clever?’ It was one of those ‘and it was all a dream’ endings which completely break my trust in the narrative and in the author. I haven’t read a single other word Yan Martell has written.

What are you reading at the moment? Is it any good?
I’m currently reading several manuscripts for critique and can’t name them. The three last published books I read were Aftershock, Rick Wayne’s episode 5 of The Minus Faction (loved it!), James S.A. Coreys’s Abaddon’s Gate (very good), and Audrey Faye’s Grower’s Omen (loved it!).

I’ve come to a place in my leisure reading that if I am not enjoying a story, I stop reading it. Life’s too short and there are too many books out there. And just because I abandon a book, it doesn’t mean it’s not good, just that I didn’t really enjoy it. There is so much subjectivity in what makes a book good and what I love may not be what someone else does.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog!

More about Lisa:

LJ Cohen is a novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist, LJ now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. She lives in the Boston area with her family, two dogs, and the occasional international student. DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE (book 3 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space), is her sixth novel. LJ is a member of SFWA, Broad Universe, and the Independent Publishers of New England.

Some links to LJ Cohen:

Homepage: http://www.ljcohen.net/
Blog: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/
Newsletter: http://www.ljcohen.net/mailinglist/mail.cgi/list/bluemusings
Google+: https://www.google.com/+LisaCohen
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5305326.L_J_Cohen
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ljcohen
Twitter: @lisajanicecohen

 

Writing companions

Who says writing is a solitary occupation? Although the birds are much less distracting than Pippin, who keeps lying on my feet, groaning, and accidentally switching the power off at the wall.

mossies

bird-shadow

writing-companion

The Dragon Girl

A fairy tale that came to me when I was supposed to be writing something else… 

Once there were two dragons. They lived in a cave quite close to a village. This was lucky for them because they were both getting old and could no longer fly long distances to find food. Every now and then one of them would float down the mountain on the evening breeze and pick up a cow, or a sheep, or a villager for their supper.

More

The Green Man doll

In between everything else, I’ve been making a new doll. At the moment he is called “The Green Man.”  Using marbles for eyes is a new thing I’m trying out.  He looks quite different with his skin on🙂

wip_doll1 wip_doll2 wip_doll3 wip_doll4

 

I added ears. Then reshaped them. To my horror he looked just like Dobby from Harry Potter, which is not the look I was going for.

wipdollears2

 

So I moved the ears and added more bits.

 

wip

Then I made him a hand, holding the shell of my deceased apple snail.  His other hand is a hoof.

green-man-hand

Hand and hoof, freshly baked.

freshly-baked

cooked-head

Skulls

Have finished the first draft of my latest book (a whole new story, not a sequel to anything I’ve written before!).  Listening to Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Name of the Wind” while doodling on Photoshop.

skull skull2 skull3 skull4

Wolf Logic is published!

At long last,  Wolf Logic is available for sale on Amazon.  Wolf Logic  is part of the two book series that starts with Crooks & Straights. These are fantasy novels set in an alternate version of contemporary South Africa where magic is real and magical creatures live and work among the rest of us.

wolf_logic_smaller

 

For those of you who don’t have the first book yet, here is the link to Crooks & Straights.  

The Swan Drawing

This might be my final illustration for Wolf Logic.  I’ve not posted all the illustrations on here…got to save some surprises for the book itself!

swan

Insects and Squid: More Wolf Logic drawings

Here are some more illustrations-in-progress for my book Wolf Logic.  These really are unfinished!

This one is of a “lacefester” which is a creature that appears early in the story. Not very dangerous, but better left alone. It has the ability to create a mesmerizing hologram between its antennae, to distract potential enemies.  It’s much sought after for the powders and talismans that can be made from its dried body, so there aren’t that many of them around any more.

lacefester_wip2

Gia spends a lot of time cutting up squid in this story. So I had to draw that too, of course:

squid-wip

Illustrations in progress for Wolf Logic

I’ve finished writing Wolf Logic.  (Or I hope I have, I’m still waiting for some feedback from my critique partners so we’ll see what happens then!)

In the meantime, I’ve started on the drawings for the book.  Here are some I’ve already shared, but redrawn.  Billy and Spyker:

Billy is a big guy, but very gentle, generous, and good natured. He’s not quite human, having a bit of bear in him. He loves surfing, helping his friend Spyker to create street art, and he funds this by selling illicit and stolen magical technology.  He’s not the most responsible of people, but he has a warm heart.

billy-work-in-progress

 

Spyker is not as easy to get on with as Billy is, and I suspect Billy is his only friend.  He is an artist, creating magnificent graffiti pieces that Billy enhances with lighting and other electronic flourishes.  Spyker can climb like a gecko, and has an affinity for electricity – he can shock you with a pinch. He’s not very reliable, and cares only for himself.  But you can get on his good side by admiring his artwork.

spyker-work-in-progress

Turtles big and small

I skived off from the perpetual squid-cutting duties to go and watch the turtles being fed.  Up on top of the Two Oceans aquarium, on the roof, is the quarantine area where sick animals and new arrivals are kept.  But these are by far the most charming.  A whole row of tanks, each one with a baby turtle flailing around inside it signalling “feed me!” with their flippers.

These little guys were rescued, found washed up on the beaches here in Cape Town. They are from the warmer east coast and got swept here into our cold waters where they usually die of hypothermia, or drown, unless they are rescued.  They are being kept here until they are big and strong and healthy enough to be released again.

turtle_baby

A little further on, in a big drum covered over with netting is this:

turtle

This is Otto, a rescued hawskbill turtle who was found washed up and dying at Yzerfontein.  The photo doesn’t really convey how impressive she is.  She’s a big girl, and she looks as though she’s doing really well now.

In case you are interested:

The Penguin Gang

They are cute, but their beaks are sharp, and they have plenty of attitude.

I had to reach in behind the tree — one of those rocks is actually a lid on a pipe, which I had to fill with water for the tree.  I felt a little…uncertain about putting my ungloved hand in among these guys.  I hung out with them for a bit, and showed them the hosepipe (Peck! Nip! Not Edible!) and the lid of the pipe (Nip! Peck! Might Be Edible! Nip!) and after a lot of “Hey, nice day, isn’t it? Don’t mind me, I’m just standing here with my hosepipe” they eventually allowed me to get near enough to fill the pipe.

penguin_dudes

Ghost in the Aquarium

I arrived a little early for my aquarium volunteer shift at the Two Oceans this morning.  Lights were still off.  Quite amazingly spooky, walking around in a dark aquarium.

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The baby ragged-tooth sharks were the best, but the tank was so dark the picture I took came out completely black🙂  So all I’ve got to show is this hungry stingray.

“Teaching and Amusing” the work of Ermanno Libenzi

One of the amazing things about having a blog is that every now and then, the people you write about, write back!  Imagine my delight in getting an email from Ermanno Libenzi, the author of quite a few of the books that were my absolute, all-time favorites when I was a little girl.  You might have seen my post on his book “Ernest in the Wild West” which you can see here and which drew a lovely conversation in the comments, from people all over the world who love those books just as much as I do.

Ermanno tells me there is a chance that these books might be republished.  How amazing would that be!  So I’m honored to  host a guest post here by Ermanno Libenzi, in which he reminds us of who he is, and why he wrote those books in the first place.  If you are interested to see more of Ermanno’s books, here is a link to some of them.


 ERMANNO LIBENZI, CHILDREN’S BOOKS WRITER AND JOURNALIST

Autobiographical notes.

I was born in Milan, Italy, and grew up amid printed paper. My father was a journalist at  the “Corriere della Sera”, the leading Italian newspaper, and his  home library room was full not only of books, but also of magazines and newspapers of various nationalities. I was terribly curious to know the meaning of all those big written words I saw in his magic room. I’m sure that it was this curiosity which pressed me to become an early reader.

I began, of course, with the first elementary picture books, then I passed to fairy tales, soon I discovered the joys of comic strips, and through them  I reached the vast world of adventure books: pirates, cow-boys, explorers were my first unforgettable heroes. Years later, I made those stories live again in three hilarious children’s books I wrote: “Robin and the Pirates”, the story of a smart little boy who finds himself on board of a pirate vessel,  and the two adventures of Ernest, a funny gentleman, photographer and explorer. In the first book he wanders  through the astonishing  mysteries of Africa, in the second one, he crosses the savage world  of the Wild West. I entrusted the genius of illustration Adelchi Galloni with the task of realizing at his best the three books’ drawings.  I can say that he really  managed to  bring the imagery and language of comics into the sphere of art.

robin_pirates

One day, exploring my father’s bookcases, by chance I opened the Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. That was for me the entrance door to the fascinating world  of the great European and American novels.

In my opinion, nothing can help a child, and later a boy, to acquire a complete cultural and sentimental education more than an early reading of these masterpieces, when our soul is clean as a white sheet of paper, and our personality is quickly developing. Reading great books is really the best food for our spirit. Moreover, the literary masterpieces  can teach us how to give full expression  to our thoughts and sentiments through the language, both written and spoken.

Thanks to all the printed paper of my childhood,  I started writing  and publishing books  when I was still very young. Everything is new, when you are in your twenties. No conventions bind your fantasy, no obligations, no commonplaces block your creativity, and sometimes  the results  of this state of grace are surprising.

I remember that when I was 25 years old,  a little, sorrowful  idea had been  turning over in my mind for a long time. I thought that it was so pleasant  to go around riding a bicycle or a motorbike.  So pleasant but unfortunately also so dangerous.  Every year a dreadful number of young people  are victims all over the world in road accidents. I thought that writing a book on that argument could certainly be an useful project. The real problem was the way I could transform a boring Road Safety manual into a readable and maybe agreeable children’s book. I thought that the best thing I could do was to keep my hand very light, to be cheerful  but giving affordable tips, and above all to avoid anxiety-inducing lessons, which could only frighten readers.  A fearful, hesitating driver is constantly in danger, more or less like a reckless driver.

After the book was published, it happened an incredible thing.  It won the “Premio Bancarellino”, the main Italian literary prize dedicated to children’s literature. Simply, I couldn’t believe it. Yet that prize was above suspicion, because its jury was, and still is, composed by hundreds of young readers coming from all the Italian regions.

My explanation of the mystery was that it was just this unconventional kind of jury which allowed my book to win the prize. I was on the same unconventional wavelength as them, while a jury made of lofty critics never could admit a manual for young cyclist into the elite of Italian children’s literature.

Nevertheless I felt a little bit guilty: my light-hearted manual had prevailed over demanding biographies and committed historical novels… I decided to redeem myself. Four years later, I managed to win the same prize again with a serious book based on true historical episodes happened in Italy during the Second World War.

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In the following years I divided my professional activity among editorial work, journalism and children’s books writing.

I wrote about thirty children’s books of various subjects:  tales, picture books,  young adult science fiction, short stories, historical and scientific non fiction.

My Italian publishers were Mondadori, Garzanti and Vallecchi. Abroad, my books were published  by Hamlyn in the United Kingdom, Platt & Munk in the United States, Nathan and Sarbacane in France, Duculot in Belgium, SĂŒdwest Verlag in Germany, Turbine Forlaget in Sweden and Danmark, Lasten Kerkus in Finland, Beijing Timebook Culture Spread in China, Holp Shuppan and Rippu Shobo in Japan, Orell FĂŒssli Verlag  In Switzerland.

First of all, I always tried to stick at the basic duty of every narrator: to entertain, to fascinate his readers – both children and adults, i.e. their parents – with  amusing and/or engaging stories. At the same time, I always tried to pursue a moral aim in my work, yet carefully trying to avoid moralism. In particular, I always cultivated  a strong interest in ecology, environmentalism and human rights. As a journalist, I wrote many articles in defence of animals, particularly against hunting.  Last, but not least, I did my best to keep in mind  that a storyteller has  a fantastic opportunity. He  can deliver – without appearing to do so – a lot of sound principles. Ancient Romans,  two thousand years ago,  called this pedagogical concept “docendo ludere”, that means  “teaching and amusing”.  I hope that this can be my motto.

A-PHOTO-OF-ERMANNO--LIBENZI

 

________________________

Squirting Squid Eyes

I did my first stint of “Behind the Scenes” work at the Two Oceans aquarium today. It was great! I’ll probably get all jaded and bored with this stuff soon enough, but right now everything is new and interesting.

First thing in the morning – went to the office to sign in, and found a penguin standing there, eyeing every body up and down🙂 Very cute.

Cleaned the tank of a mantis shrimp (the creature of Oatmeal fame) which is apparently the most intelligent of the crustaceans.  Had to work with long-stemmed implements, as putting my hand in the water would be a bit dangerous.  To quote from that Oatmeal link, mantis shrimp can accelerate to the velocity of a bullet shot from a 22 calibre rifle, and strike with a force of 1500 Newtons.  Ouch!

Here he is:

mantis_shrimp

 

I also had to keep track of a single fish ( a spotted grunter) in a shoal of many, many others, to help a diver catch it so it could go into quarantine.

And for most of the time, I cut  piles and piles of shrimp, squid, and redbait into tiny pieces.  This platter was lunch for the giant spider crabs. The big lesson here was that squid eyes squirt fluid all over the place if you don’t watch it.  Also, they have little tiny beaks like parrots, I’d never seen those before.

spidercrab_lunch

Just being in the aquarium is such a pleasure – for example, here’s a glimpse of the White Steenbras in the Kelp Tank:

steenbras

And that’s it until the week after next, when I’m on duty again🙂

 

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