Author Interview – Flight of the Vajra by Serdar Yegulalp

flight of the vajra1. Tell us all a little about your book Flight of the Vajra

At first they were only three. A brilliant starship designer, haunted by the death of his loved ones. A spiritual leader whose faith could transform mankind … or destroy it. A precocious acrobat girl, looking for a new family of her own.

Then came others. An entertainer and playboy whose dissolute lifestyle conceals unexpected ambitions, courtesy of a lover who represents the galaxy’s most powerful worlds. And a pair of detectives–one barely human, the other not at all–with orders to enlist all their help solving a crime that threatens civilization.

Together they formed the crew of the ever-evolving spacecraft Vajra. Seven against a universe where the boundaries between matter and mind have been torn down, where one can wield the power of billions … and where humanity must choose between rebirth or annihilation.

“Nature likes those who surrender to her but she loves those who do not”

2. Where did you get the idea for the book?

“Vajra” was, as I put it to some other folks, my “‘Dune’ moment”. For a long time I’d wanted to write something big, sprawling, set in the far future, and full of Neat Stuff — but I also wanted it to be something that people could connect with and feel moved by. I was also pretty alienated from most of what was going on in space-opera style SF, so much so that I said, well, if I’m this disgusted about it, I should try to do something about it. So I wrote “Vajra”, both as a way to fulfill a desire and as a way to respond to what I thought were deficiencies in the works I’d been seeing in the same genre.
3. Why did you decide to use Inkshares a crowdfunded publishing site?

It’s an experiment. I’ve published “Vajra” on Kindle, but it received no traction worth speaking of, so I thought I might see if Inkshares would be a better platform for helping it find an audience.
4. Why do you write?

I’ll go with a line from Kurt Vonnegut: “I could not help myself.”

5. What are your plans for the future with your writing?

I’ve got one more book finished (“Welcome to the Fold”) which I’m currently sending to agents, and another one in progress that I may well also try getting an audience for via Inkshares.
6. Why should readers help support your book?

When I wanted to promote “Flight of the Vajra” at a convention where I had a sales table, I printed up a little promotional poster that featured a blurb from a friend of mine who loved the book:  “A more responsible version of Tony Stark finds he’s got to save the galaxy – and his team consists of a circus acrobat, a futuristic Dali Lama, Jim Gordon, Seven of Nine, and David Bowie.”
If that isn’t reason enough to support it, I have no idea what is.

Flight of the Vajra on Kindle:

Flight of the Vajra on Inkshares

 

Author Interview – I Am Waltz – Matthew Dho

i am waltz1.    Tell us all a little about I Am Waltz

I Am Waltz is about a boy named Kyle. On his 16th birthday he is come upon by a robot that is down on its luck. In Kyle’s world a massive race of AI exists solely to complete menial tasks in the First World. They are all owned and controlled by the company that created them called IRIS. IRIS uses patented restrictor chips to limit what an AI version can learn. For example, police robots can only learn to become better police, chefs can only learn to become better chefs, etc. Kyle lives at a cognitive recapture facility, which is really a futuristic junkyard. There his father extracts the AI consciousness and uploads it through the cloud whenever a new hardware version is out. It’s real blue collar stuff, and most people frown upon it because of the grotesque nature of the process. Nevertheless Kyle lives there and on his birthday, he meets a robot pleading for help. This robot has somehow had his restrictor chip removed. (Something that was thought to be impossible). From there the story takes off and enters into a real adventure quest for freedom and answers.

2.    Where did you get the idea for the book?

Originally I wrote a book about a group of people who had won tickets to the world’s first entirely sustainable space hotel. Through that, I wrote about a lot of ultra-advanced AI robots that were the help in this Space Hilton. The idea of ultra-advanced robots who had abilities both cognitively and physically far and beyond that of humans being essentially slaves to those who were really under evolved than them became something I obsessed over. I wondered what would happen if that were a reality.

What would happen if an AI existed that was better than humans in every way, but was limited purposefully in its abilities by those who created it? What would then happen if those limitations were removed? What lengths would the oppressors go to in an effort to gain back that control?

These questions led to I Am Waltz. Through exploring these answers a trilogy formed and the first is I Am Waltz. I wanted to tell the story through a relatable protagonist, so I chose a teen that had been disconnected from the world. This disconnection would provide a thicker connection to today’s readers. So I had my protagonist and a jumping off point of countless questions. From there the story spun itself.

3.    Why did you decide to use Inkshares – a crowdfunded publishing site?

I hate the idea of slush-piles. I hate the idea of having so much control taken away. To just sit on a wish and a prayer that the reader at Publisher XYZ isn’t hungover and is actually going to give my manuscript a read. I think Inkshares is a great marriage between self-publishing and traditional. I think it really fills a void and is the future of publishing.

4.    Why do you write?

Why not? Ok that was not my answer. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, so I am not sure the exact reason. But I do love to tell stories and writing is a great singular way to do that. I love to control of writing and the process itself. Its slow and often lackluster, but fulfilling for me in a very selfish way. Until other mediums such as film, I am not restricted by anything when it comes to writing. No money restraints, don’t have to worry about lighting or sound. It’s all the perfect condition and I can create anything I want.

5.    What are your plans for the future with your writing?

After I Am Waltz hits shelves I will begin writing out the sequel and then the trilogy after that. I brainstormed and roughly plotted the entire trilogy before beginning I Am Waltz and have titles picked, though I won’t reveal those just yet. After this trilogy I have plans for a connected trilogy in the same universe the Waltz Trilogy sets up, though a century into the future from where the third book ends. Beyond that I love film and work on a lot of shorts and that sort of thing.

6.    Why should readers help support your book?

Passion. The competitiveness and broken system that is the publishing world often drowns out a lot of great work. But yet passionate writers continue to plug away and no one ever hears their voice. I am beyond passionate about this book, it’s themes and I whole-heartedly believe its readers will derive a lot of value from it. Sadly without help in today’s world the book more than likely will fade into the abyss, never to be read. From discrimination, persecution and loss to more wild topics such as artificial intelligence and the technological singularity I hope the book to be enlightening and entertaining for all who read it.

7.    What’s your favorite line from the book?
“I Am Waltz.”

8.    I know you are using funds from the book to support a charity.  Can you talk a little about that?

After the tragedy in Orlando I did not feel right asking people to support escapism entertainment without first acknowledging the horrors in our own reality. Money and profitability never has been a motivating factor for why I write. So it was an obvious decision for me to donate any and all author proceeds from this work to the families of the victims that were torn apart by that tragedy.

Pre-order I Am Waltz here

Author Interview – First on Mars – Landon Trine

MarsCover11. Tell us all a little about First on Mars

This book is about the first manned mission to the surface of Mars. It starts of with sabotage and a bunch of other things go wrong. There’s drama, mystery, and suspense as the crew of seven individuals have to figure out how to survive and, ultimately, to work together and get past their differences (or die trying, you have to read to find out).

2. Where did you get the idea for the book?

This idea is a result of years of fascination with NASA, space travel, Mars, and science-fiction, but the actual idea comes from mixing together every different idea for a Mars mission that I know about in a blender and pouring out the result. Every different opinion and idea is represented here. It covers not only the US, but China, the EU, and other countries and private entities in the race to occupy Mars. There’s even a fictional equivalent of Elon Musk.

3. Why did you decide to use Inkshares – a crowdfunded publishing site?
I’ve always been fascinated by crowdfunding, since I first learned about it, and also new ideas around publishing books. For example, I’ve been a long time user of Leanpub to publish technical books (I’m a programmer by trade). Inkshares marries crowdfunding with a traditional publisher and has a really great modern web interface that seems to be inspired by Twitter and Medium. It also has a great community of authors already, which is great.

4. Why do you write?

Mainly I write to connect with others through story telling, but also just because it’s fun. I love to read and I need to write to stay sane. I’ve always had a creative side to me and have found different outlets: drawing, painting, music, and writing. Lately I’ve found that writing is the best way to express the ideas I have in my head…

5. What are your plans for the future with your writing?
In a perfect world I’d be writing full time and churn out tons of short stories and books. In reality I hope to finish at least one novel per year and write some short stories. There are several other books already in the works and up on Inkshares.

6. What’s your favorite line from the book?

That’s a tough one. Perhaps my favorite so far is a quote from Kara about the big question of life:

You asked me once what we’re here for?” Kara said and then paused before adding as she gestured her hand around her, “How about this? To explore.”

7. Why should readers help support your book?

It’s a timely and unique story that needs to be told, as well as an entertaining read. Not only that, but you will be supporting me as a writer and motivating me to keep going. Also, I’ve committed to donating at least $250 to charity (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) if the campaign is successful.

https://www.inkshares.com/books/first-on-mars

Book Review – The Running of the Tyrannosaurs

ROTT Overall review:4.95 Stars (4.95 / 5)

Far in the future, on a distant space station, young girls are chosen, trained, emotionally shaped and genetically modified for one purpose and one purpose only: to run and race tyrannosaurs, who have been brought back from extinction.  This is done for one reason – ENTERTAINMENT, on a galactic scale.

I listened to this novella of Stant Litore’s on Audible on a road trip.  First off, I want to say that I was very impressed with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which of course is legendary now.  But, Hunger Games cannot hold a candle to the depth and richness of both story and character in The Running of the Tyrannosaurs.

While this novella is a good read at a superficial level, I found it more rewarding for its allegorical nature, which addresses our society’s fixation on the pursuit of beauty and attention at all costs.

The story line was fresh and new and wonderfully portrayed.  Characterization was beyond excellent, with inner conflicts written with a subtle and deft hand.  I can’t really comment on the readability, since I listened to an audiobook, but I am assuming it is very good – his other book I am reading now (The Zombie Bible) is near perfect.  As far as writing craft goes – Litore is a master.  The cover art is beautiful and  accurately portrays the premise of the book.  For the worldbuilding, I had a hard time getting my head around the venue of the race, but I plan on listening to the book again and I think that will help.

Just so everyone knows – one day Stant Litore will be an author that is taught in literature classes, because his writing is as meaningful and significant as Vonnegut, Huxley, Orwell and Clarke.  Litore is also what I consider to be a “writer’s writer” and worth studying for form and content by anyone who is interested in writing fiction.

Very, very well done.  If I can ever be even half the writer Litore is, I will be content.

Story Line:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Characterization:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Readability:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Writing Craft:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Cover Art:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Worldbuilding:4.75 Stars (4.75 / 5)

Book Review – The Life Engineered

life engineered Overall review:3 Stars (3 / 5)

The Life Engineered, by J.F. Dubeau is a story revolving around the trials and tribulations of a group of sentient robots, called Capeks.  The Capeks live in space, and their prime mission is to rebuild a destroyed Milky Way Galaxy.  Capeks have been created by humans just for this purpose.  But, when creatures are sentient, of course they develop their own ideas about things!

This book is a winner of the Sword and Laser Collection contest run on the Inkshares publishing site early last year.

I so wanted to like this book. I mean, sentient robots who get to live in space in a utopian society, not bound by nuisances like absolute zero, lack of gravity, no atmosphere, solar radiation etc.  What’s not to like? I read the first page, completely ready to be pleased.

But, about halfway through, I just had to put it aside.

I spent quite a bit of time in analysis on what it was I didn’t like about it, and my final conclusion it was just for too much to cover in one book.

There are basically three completely different settings, two of which need some real worldbuilding finesse to make them believable.  There are dozens of characters, and none of them are given the depth that is required to make them interesting and make the reader CARE about them.

The story line itself was muddled and the first three chapters were so diverse in settings and poorly transitioned, I had trouble piecing the threads of connection together, even half way through the book.  As I said before, the characterization was superficial, there were some nuances brought out in the protagonist at various points, which I thought were worthy of more expansion.  And there was a real bright and charming moment with one of the robot constructs that I enjoyed thoroughly.

And, as I said before the worldbuilding left a lot to be desired, in all three settings.  As far as craft, I think the talent is there, certainly the imagination is.  But, more work needs to be done to improve these skills.

Copy and line editing was excellent, I didn’t find any errors to stumble over.

The cover art was well done, rendered well on a computer and reflected the plot of the book very nicely.

And just as a side note, I think that this entire concept would have worked VERY well in a Weir/Howey model – i.e. short stories serialized over a period of time to give the author time to build a readership, develop a complex “storyverse,” and create real depth in the characters.  And those types of exercises always give an author the chance for improvements in crafting.

Story Line:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Characterization:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Readability:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Writing Craft:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Cover Art:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Worldbuilding:2 Stars (2 / 5)

 

Asteroid Made of Dragons

asteroid made of dragonsOverall review:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Imagine a tea party.  Frank Zappa is the host, and he makes some “special” mushroom tea.  Attendees at the party include William Goldman (of The Princess Bride fame), Lewis Carroll (Looking Glass fame [of course]), and Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide) and they are told to collaborate on a novel.

I have to say even THEY would have had a tough time coming up with a book as entertaining as Asteroid Made of Dragons.

It has been many years since I have enjoyed any book as much AMOD.  Granted, during the first couple of chapters I was in a flashing brain state of WTF is going on??, but by Chapter 3, I was totally hooked.  And laughing.

I dearly love mashups as a rule, and this book was the mashup to end all mashups.  Just about every mythological, fairylogical, pixielogical, archetypal, supernatural and general magical creature/thing made an appearance at some point (I didn’t see unicorns or Orcs, that I recall – but I could have just overlooked them).  And, there were also steampunk-type airships, ghost-pirate zombies, at least one vampire (I think – all signs point to that fact), a seer and of course, the dragon asteroid.

The story itself (once I fully committed to the ride) was an entertaining Wild Mouse twister.  I never knew WHAT was going to happen next.  Characterization was neatly and skillfully done – especially considering the gamut of creatures that appeared at nearly every turn of the page.

Editing was outstanding.  At the end of the book, the author gives credit to “Lindsay Robinson for her blistering developmental edit.”  I have a feeling that this book was not the easiest book to edit – so more power to Lindsay!

I just had one small gripe – there was a sentence in about horses/riders “looping” which made no sense (horses lope).  I am a long time horsewoman – and when I run across inaccuracies like this I always get a sour face.

The cover art is very good, accurately portraying the lighthearted feel of the book itself.  Writing craft – I would say that Adams is well on his way to journeyman status.  And, worldbuilding – pretty good – considering there was so many worlds mashed together.

All in all – a classic and a must read.

Story Line:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Characterization:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Readability:4.75 Stars (4.75 / 5)
Writing Craft:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Cover Art:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Worldbuilding:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Review – With Eyes Turned Skyward

 

With Eyes Turned Skyward

Overall review:3 Stars (3 / 5)

With Eyes Turned Skyward is set in a Post-Apocalyptic Earth where the land mass is greatly reduced due to “The Drowning” (rising of the seas).  The human race survives in small enclaves perched on mountain ranges or in other undrowned areas – some are beginning the struggle of reclaiming emerging land which has been taken over by “amphibious seaweed” (a feature I found highly entertaining) and vicious, mutant creatures.

However, other humans have taken to the skies in huge zeppelins that follow trade routes from settlement to settlement for profit.  These zeppelins not only carry passengers and merchants, but their own military forces (to fight off pestiferous sky pirates).  They are basically floating fortresses cruising at 14,000 feet – people are born, live and die on these airships, rarely touching dry land throughout their lives.

The protagonist of the story, Sage Bazmon, is an orphan who was born and raised on the Zeppelin, Artemis.  He becomes a soldier, a pilot and the savior of the world.  He earns the nickname “Saber” because of his bravery and skills as a fighter pilot (the dogfight scenes are very well done).

I really liked the story line of this book when I read the sample from Amazon.  It sounded fresh and interesting, a completely different take on post-apocalyptic fiction, which quite frankly has been done to death.  I also loved the book cover – very slick and professional looking, fitting the story line nicely.  The prose is written in first person, present tense, which I believe takes a certain amount of boldness, not to mention skill.  It gave the book a sense of immediacy and engagement which I thought fit well with the work as a whole.

However, like so many independently published works, this book is greatly in need of a really good editor(s) –  a good line/copy editor with some input on content improvement could make a huge difference.  I also found the electronic formatting inconsistent.  I don’t know how the formatting was done, but it didn’t do well with all my Kindle devices – when I tilted my tablet(s) I would get crazy indents etc.  Have no idea what caused it.  The pagination was also strange.

The Worldbuilding was weak – I found myself wondering about a lot of details i.e. where did they get the fuel for the zeppelins and other machines, where did they grow food etc.  Characters also were a bit one dimensional, except for the protagonist.

So, if someone can live with the editing issues I think it is an overall good story.   However, I found them incredibly distracting and had to force myself to finish once I got about half way through.

Nice effort for a first book, but it could be much better.

Story Line:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Characterization:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Readability:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Writing Craft:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Cover Art:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Worldbuilding:2 Stars (2 / 5)