Best Novel and Best Novella Hugo Finalists 2016

For those of you wondering what’s going on with the Hugo Awards.

J. C. Conway

Looking for a good SFF book, short or long? Here are the descriptions of the new Hugo Award finalists in the Best Novel and Best Novella categories. For more, click on the book cover images for a link to each work’s Goodreads page, which includes buy links for print, e-book, or audio copies, if available.

Best Novel

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)

For a moment, things seem to be under control for the soldier known as Breq. Then a search of Atheok Station’s slums turns up someone who shouldn’t exist – someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that’s been hiding beyond the empire’s reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq’s enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai – ruler of an empire at war with itself.

Anaander is heavily armed and extremely…

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Interview with Multi-genre Author John Reinhard Dizon

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John Reinhard Dizon is one of my favorite authors and definitely one of the most versatile. His literary repertoire includes thrillers, family sagas, historical settings, steampunk, sports, suspense and techno-horror to name a few.  His latest release, Both Sides Now, is a romantic comedy, and I must say that I have a bit of a personal interest in this book since I designed both the interior and the cover plus my daughter is the model on the back. While formatting the interior, I gleaned enough of the story’s basics that I’m looking forward to reading it properly in the near future.

I interviewed John a few years back, but in view of this new release, I thought it was time for a rerun with some specific questions directed at him about this latest work. While he dubs it a romantic comedy, it struck me as much more substantial, especially with its unique setting and situations. So let’s see what he has to say.

MF:  The protagonist in your latest novel, “Both Sides Now”, is an intellectual wrestler. You are a highly intelligent person and were a wrestler in a “previous life”, which explains the authentic feel and terminology of the sport. How much of this story is autobiographical?

JRD: Actually it’s far more biographical. Hans “The Great” Mortier was one of my mortierWorld Wide Wrestling Federation childhood favorites. There was a major roster change when Vince Mc Mahon bought the Company from his father at the end of the Sixties, and the stars from the old regime were swept under the rug. Mortier was not a German professor, so that is all ‘what-if’. However, a large portion of the story is going to be instantly recognizable to fans of the era. The novel is as much a testament to the era as it is to Hans Mortier.

MF: Ray Karpis, quite a shady character from the early 20th Century, has made an appearance in two of your books, this latest one as well as “The Triad.” What do you find most appealing about him?  Did you ever meet him?

TheTriadCover1 copyJRD: As a criminologist, I have to say that Alvin Karpis is my favorite gangster. He was the last of the Public Enemies but was so elusive and shadowy that hardly anyone knows of him. I wrote Both Sides Now before The Triad and paid homage to Karpis by naming the Lou Thesz-based character after him. Outside of his autobiography and the Public Enemies biography and movie, there is almost nothing out there about Karpis. Hence The Triad. I think I did a good job of bringing his personage to life. He was considered a genius, loyal and generous to a fault, and very much in touch with the modern world and technical developments. Like most of the great gangsters, he would have been a tremendous success in society and the real world had he not gone the wrong way.

MF:  You do a great job of capturing the flavor of other eras as well as places.  You’ve lived through quite a few yourself, but when you get beyond your experience, what’s your favorite research method for your stories?

bothsidesnowcover6.jpgJRD:  The Internet usually helps you find the resources you need to make your story work. Only in this case, as you mentioned, I lived through most of this. Ergo, it was mostly a matter of documenting my recollections. I spent a lot of time in the NYU neighborhood, Soho and Greenwich Village, so most of what I did was pull up addresses. I read hundreds of wrestling magazines so was familiar with the old-time arenas. I was also a paralegal, so that helped me make the courtroom drama all the more realistic.

MF:  You’ve certainly held a wide variety of jobs, which undoubtedly contributes to your writing. Authenticity is important if you want to be taken seriously as an author and when you can say, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt” the details bring the story alive. As far as the plot itself, do your stories reveal themselves as you write or do you know what’s going to happen, start to finish, when you first sit down to write them?

JRD:  Many times the characters end up helping write the stories, as Sabrina Brooks does in the Nightcrawler series. She just makes things happen around her. In this story, Ray Karpis greatly influenced the conflict in the storyline (pun somewhat intended). He becomes the voice of reason, letting Lucien clearly see all the possibilities if he chose that direction in life along the road to wrestling superstardom. I think it also lets the reader see ‘both sides now’ and will stimulate discussion as to whether or not Lucien makes the right choice.

MF: Ethical dilemmas make great material because the reader is forced to think.  You have a huge list of published work. How long does it take you, on average, to finish one of your novels?

courthouse1JRD:  It varies, considering how complex the story is. The action/adventure stories move along pretty quickly as there’s the adrenaline rush that keeps you writing. Historical fiction such as this takes a bit longer because you have to authenticate your work. Getting names, places and events wrong will leave your story dead in the water. The courtroom storyline in this novel took almost as much research as all the wrestling background. It probably took the better part of a year to put it all together.

MF: Wow! That’s so true, though, if you want to be taken seriously as an author. When a reader stops to roll his or her eyes because something is inaccurate it pulls them out of the story, which is the last thing an author wants to do. Of the numerous books you’ve written, do you have one particular character who’s your favorite? Why?

JRD:  I’m having to go with Sabrina Brooks, aka the Nightcrawler. Every one of her novels is an adventure in itself. She’s a beautiful woman who moonlights as a crimefighter, who seems to target the Russian Mob. She’s the CEO of a chemical company, which means she doesn’t have to do this but does anyway. She’s very compassionate and is a churchgoer, which makes her all the more unique. Her personal relationships suffer greatly as she gets beat up, and the Nightcrawler’s successes come at the expense of her personal life. I enjoy writing her story as much as people love reading it.

MF:  Multi-dimensional characters are essential to a good story.  So what’s your favorite part of the writing process? Which part is the most difficult?

JRD: It’s the dialogue. It may be my strong point as a writer, and it helps me develop the characters and give the reader the best insight as to the speaker’s personality and motivation. The reason why reality TV shows get over is because people want to see their heroes behind the scenes. In literature, the author allows readers to listen to the characters giving up their innermost hopes and fears. The most difficult part is bringing it all together, making the story plausible. You do your homework, you authenticate your background, you flesh out your characters, but your audience has to buy your story. That’s the make or break part, and I think I make that happen every time.

MF:  Yes, you certainly do! When did you decide you wanted to be an author?

JRD: I was writing dialogue for my stick-figure cartoons when I was six. I was fascinated by TV and the movies and wanted to tell my own stories. Many people will say my entire life was about turning my fantasies into reality.

MF: So obviously you were born to write, which isn’t surprising considering how prolific you are.  You’ve worn a variety of hats over the years in a wide variety of jobs and places. What can we expect from you in the future? At what stage is your next novel and when do you expect it to be out?

JRD:  The Blight is about a decorated fire team of Navy SEAL commandos working as an elite unit for the St. Louis PD. They are taking on a mass murderer intent on destroying the ‘social blight’ plaguing the city. Kirsten Streicher is a typical JRD bad-ass female protagonist. Only her team is heavily impacted by the madman known as X, and the writing is on the wall as their group is slowly disbanding. Kirsten is forced to move forward with a whirlwind romance beckoning, though she feels compelled to bring the killer to justice before her career comes to an end. As usual, there’s lots of social issues and moral conundrums discussed, and the standard JRD reflections of current-day controversies. I’m hoping to release it by Summer 2016.

MF:  Sounds like another winner! Is there any particular author or authors who have inspired you the most?

JRD:  Shakespeare, Ian Fleming and Robert E. Howard. The Bard for his conciseness and verbal dynamism, Fleming for his ability to take the reader to a myriad of locations, societies and situations, and Howard for his gift of lurid description and breathtaking action. I hope my readers see my work in a favorable light in comparison.

MF: From what I’ve read, I believe you can rest assured that they will.

You can pick up a copy of Both Sides Now on Amazon here.

Connect with John Reinhard Dizon:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/johnreinharddizonUSA

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/John-Reinhard-Dizon/e/B00DU9JNUQ/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JohnRDizon

 

 

May Heralds in a Mercury Transit

A while back, Venus transited the Sun. Now it’s Mercury’s turn. This doesn’t happen very often so don’t miss it! Be sure to use appropriate filtering for your viewing to assure safety.

On Monday, May 9, the transit of Mercury will be visible, according to the Royal Astronomical Society. The next two transits will occur in 2019 and 2032.

Source: May Heralds in a Mercury Transit

Day 7 of the 1/2-Acre Challenge

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I’m happy to report that so far for an entire week I have spent at least two hours a day working in my yard. The progress so far is not that dramatic, but I hope the cumulative effect will be. Yesterday I went to Home Depot and picked up some plants, one of which is pictured above on the far right.  Can you guess what it is?  Gizmo, my feral cat, provides a hint with her disgruntled expression.

Right, it’s cat mint and the plant closest to her is catnip. If I didn’t have the protection around it, by tomorrow it would be gone with numerous very happy cats lazing around the yard in an inebriated state. Gizmo, of course, does not agree with my decision, much as children protest when their parents ration Easter or Halloween candy.

Don’t worry, she’ll get her share, as will my indoor cats, who are regular “nipheads”, a term coined by fellow blogger, Jeanne Foguth, in her series, “The Sea Purr-tector Files”, which stars my favorite feline 007, Xander de Hunter. If you’re a cat fancier looking for a fun read, check out volume one here on Amazon! You can start the series for free with the prequel, “Latitudes and Cattitudes.”

Tomorrow I’ll continue my quest and provide another update when I do something interesting enough to report.

 

Blog Tour: Annie Douglass Lima’s Latest YA Adventure Tale

I’m excited to be part of Annie Douglass Lima’s blog tour to announce her latest young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.

The Collar and the CavvarachFirst Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

The Gladiator and the Guard

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

EXCERPT:

“Hey, it’s the new guy,” someone said, and heads turned. “What’s your number?”

“My number? Oh, um, I think they said I’d be Fifty-Eight.” A tasty-looking bowl of chicken and potatoes came within reach, but someone else picked it up, scooped some onto his own plate, and then passed it away down the table before Bensin could get any.

“So, you beat Ninety-Nine,” a Skeyvian gladiator across from him commented, his dark skin laced with pale jagged scars. “Soon as he gets out of the clinic, you better watch out. He’ll be out for blood.” He set down the vegetables he had just served himself, and Bensin picked up the dish, but the guy next to him plucked it out of his hands and sent it in the other direction.

“I didn’t actually mean to hurt him,” Bensin began, looking around for another dish of food. He was interrupted by derisive laughter from everyone within earshot.

“Fifty-Eight didn’t mean to hurt him! Ha! What kind of gladiator are you, kid?”

Bensin couldn’t think of an appropriate response. “Hey, could somebody pass me the chicken?”

“Dude, you better start meaning to hurt people if you want to make it here,” the burly Tarnestran beside him advised. “You can’t manage that, Gile will plan a blaze of glory for you sooner rather than later.”

Bensin wasn’t sure what the man was talking about, and his stomach was still rumbling. Everyone around him was eating now, but the serving dishes had all been passed down to the other end of the table.

“Gile won’t have to plan a blaze of glory for this one,” another gladiator predicted. “At this rate, he’s gonna starve to death first.”

* * *

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

About the Author

Annie Douglass LimaAnnie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

(See my previous interview with Annie here.)

Connect with the Author Online:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnnieDouglassLima

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn

Google Plus: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Keeping up with Technology — Barely

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It blew me away today when I discovered this article on Futurism.com about brainprints. The reason is that in my last science fiction novel, “Refractions of Frozen Time,” I had the bad guys collecting what I called mindprints, which were a unique identifier. So here we go again, science fiction has become science fact.

What’s a sci-fi author to do?

It gets harder and harder to come up with futuristic technology. Since I started my novels several years ago I had to do various “upgrades” for them to keep up. I had internet, the equivalent of Craig’s List, and electronic currency in my novels long before they were reality.

About the only thing I have in my novels, short of faster-than-light (FTL) space travel, that I 15442253_sTHOUGHT was still science fiction is the c-com device my hero uses for any number of functions. C-com stands for “cerebral companion” and was like a smart phone on steroids driven by psi-waves, a.k.a. telepathy.  But EVEN AS I WAS WRITING THIS BLOG, an email came in from Futurism that stated you can now send text messages via your brainwaves! You can find the article here.

Holy cow…

What’s a sci-fi author to do????

Please, buy my books quick, before they jump genres into historical novels!  The box set of the entire series is currently on sale for only $3.99.

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Moon, Mars, Saturn, Antares on April 25 | EarthSky.org

Here’s what’s waiting for you in the sky tonight.

Moon is still moving past 2 planets and a bright star, Antares in the constellation Scorpius. Learn why this constellation is never in the sky with Orion.

Source: Moon, Mars, Saturn, Antares on April 25 | EarthSky.org

Eating an Elephant One Bite at a Time

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I live in a rural area on a half acre that I’m trying to tame. I must say that during the nasty drought that Texas experienced that past seven-plus years it was a lot easier to sit in my air-conditioned house and go outside as little as possible, like to the mailbox and back. Period.  Now that the drought appears to be over, everything is green again and our lake is back up where it should be, I’ve decided it’s time to make my place look the way I’ve always dreamed it could on the outside.

Usually I get totally overwhelmed looking at it, but have finally adopted a common sense approach of taking it on one thing at a time, about an hour a day. It usually takes me three separate days to mow the yard with a walk-behind mower, so today I finished what I started Friday. I cut back the cactus by my front door that was taking over the porch, and have a list of manageable chores on my list for the coming days, like cutting down several volunteer hackberry trees and saving the irises from that unruly cactus.

So often when a task is utterly overwhelming, it’s easy to ignore or dismiss it entirely. How many things are you putting off because you don’t know where to start? Here’s the secret: Just start.  The satisfaction feeds your resolve and before you know it you’ve gained enough momentum to keep at it. I just hope I can get enough done before serious heat sets in, but until then I’ll tackle taming my little patch of land one bite at a time.

Chartreux | Breed History, Information and Pictures – Pet360 Pet Parenting Simplified

This cat has a fascinating history!

Well muscled and energetic, the Chartreux makes for a fun feline to have around the house.

Source: Chartreux | Breed History, Information and Pictures – Pet360 Pet Parenting Simplified

Mars is getting bright! Here’s why | EarthSky.org

Mars stationed retrograde on April 17 so will now appear to move “backwards” through the sky.

We’ll pass between Mars and the sun about a month from now, on May 22. Watch Mars brighten dramatically between now and then!

Source: Mars is getting bright! Here’s why | EarthSky.org