Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Teaser Tuesday at the Scifi Romance Group


As the title of this post suggests, the Scifi Romance Group is having a Teaser Tuesday, so I've decided to join in the fun and post an except of Cover Fire (Valiant Knox #3 and a current work-in-progress).



Valiant Knox
In Orbit around Ilari, Brannon System
Sub-Lieutenant Sebastian Rayne stared at the Command Intelligence agent and her handler, the crazy frigging people.
"You want me to drop you where?"
The CI handler's expression tightened, making the guy looked like he'd got a whiff of something he didn't like. "These coordinates, as I've just given you—"
"Yeah, I can read the coordinates, buddy. But, you do realize they're in the heart of enemy-held territory? Like, I'm talking so far up the proverbial ass—"
"We realize that," the agent interrupted. "They told us you were the best pilot in the Brannon System. So, can you drop me there, or not?"
Well now, stroke his ego and then throw down a challenge? This chick had player written all over her.
He rocked back on his heels, hooking his thumbs through his belt holster.
"I don't know. What's in it for me?" He shot her a weighted look full of smarmy innuendo. However, he was just playing her tit for tat. The woman had all artificial looks — straw blonde hair, perfect plastic features and too much makeup. The usual CI agent killer-babe, who used her face and body to charm the unsuspecting enemy… and then slit the poor bastard's throat before he'd even finished getting his rocks off.
 Yeah, there was something too fake about her, all except for those eyes. Those silvery-jade eyes had an expressive openness to them that didn't belong in the face of a consummate fraud.
"Nothing," the agent replied. "There's nothing in it for you except the challenge of taking on a high-risk assignment. But, from what I've heard about you, that should be enough."
Damn, she had it right there. Even now, the idea of getting so far into the heart of territory held by the CSS — Christ's Sunday Soldiers — had anticipation pulsing through him with the steady, excited thudding of his heart. In his mind's eye, he could see possible routes and the problems he was likely to run up against. It would be one heck of a ride and had all the hallmarks of a suicide mission.
"Fine, when do we leave?"
The CI handler looked relieved, while the agent simply nodded.
"We leave now. Commander Yang has already cleared an armed personnel carrier for our use."
Seb glanced over at Commander Yang, who gave a single nod in confirmation. Had they all been so sure he'd take on this crazy assignment? When had he become so damn predictable?
 He tapped a foot while the agent had a quick, quiet conversation with her handler, before she walked over to join him.
"By the way, Sub-Lieutenant." The agent paused in front of him and that intense jade gaze of hers seemed to be sizing him up. "We're short on time, so not only do I need you to get me there in one piece, I need you to do it fast."
He shot her a grin. "Then you've definitely come to the right place. When it comes to ships and jets, crazy and fast is the only way I do things."
As he saluted Commander Yang, Seb caught the faintly exasperated expression that crossed the CO's face. Yeah, his reputation of being a cowboy had been well earned since he'd received his wings and joined the fighter pilot squadron nine years back. But someone in the squad had to fill the role of crazy-sonuvabitch, otherwise who else would they give whacky, fun-filled assignments-of-death to?
The agent nodded to her handler and then walked out of the wardroom, and Seb fell into step beside her. "I assume we're launching from port level alpha?"
She shook her head, lips pressed into a thin line. "No, the personnel carrier Commander Yang organized for us is on port level charlie, bay foxtrot ten."
"So we're launching from the boondocks, huh?" He made a face, though she didn't see it, the way she was avoiding looking at him. What, she didn't like dealing with the grunt? Well, too bad. If he had to fly her into the stinking armpit of Ilari that the CSS called home, then she could damn well put up with his commentary the entire way. "I guess that means you don't want anyone to see me flying you off to your super-secret CI business."
She cut him an unimpressed look, sprinkled with a hint of annoyance. "Yes. And I'm sure I don't need to tell you exactly how classified this is, so don't go blabbing your mouth to any of your stick jockey buddies tonight when you're having after-shift beers."
He sent her a faintly mocking salute. "Yes ma'am."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Completing My Sci-Fi Educatation - Star Trek

As a sci-fi author, I've found in recent times that if a person is going to ask you anything sci-fi-related outside of what sci-fi books/authors I read, the next question always inevitably has something to do with Star Trek or Star Wars.
Its probably not surprising considering these two different franchises are the most recognized and culture-changing science fiction stories of both the previous generation, and my own generation with the revival of new movies.
I had seen Star Wars on TV as a teenager. Let's face it, if you lived somewhere with a TV, it was probably hard not to see the Star Wars movies at some point. I remember thinking they were okay, but not as exciting as my parents had made them out to be.
Though my parents had loved the Star Wars movies, they weren't Star Trek fans, so the TV show or movies never came up on the TV in our house. However, some newer (when I say newer, I mean early to mid 1990's) sci-fi was regularly watched, most notably SeaQuest. I can't remember if it was something my parents were watching that I became addicted to, or something I found on my own and then made everyone else watch ('cos, you know, one TV. Everyone had to watch the same thing... unimaginable in this day and age!).
When the first new Star Wars movie came out, I was in my late teens and went to the cinema to see it because my friends were, not because I had any particular interest or desire to see them. With the second one, I saw it when it came out on DVD for the same reason. As for the third, I actually haven't seen it at all.
However, it was about this time I was starting to get into sci-fi in a big way, I just didn't realize it yet. Stargate SG1 was my new favorite TV show, and I was devouring episodes and seasons as fast as I could. After that, I got into a wide range of post-90s sci-fi.
In 2009 when the new Star Trek movie came out, I remember a lot of people seemed very excited about it, while others thought it would never be as good as the original. I saw a preview or movie trailer for it, and thought it looked okay, but wasn't about to run out and see it any time soon. While Star Trek may have all but defined a generation and changed sci-fi as we knew it, the characters and story had also been the butt of many jokes, so I kind of assumed it might be somewhat corny.
And not seeing Star Trek was fine for a while. Except then recently I started feeling like maybe I was missing out on something. I mean, so many sci-fi fans talk in awe of Star Trek and the legendary Captain James T Kirk, I found myself wondering if it could be as good as people made it out to be, or as cliched and melodramatic as others seemed to think it was. Besides, I was starting to get sick of explaining to people why, as a sci-fi fan, I hadn't seen any Star Trek whatsoever.
So I finally got my act together and got the newer 2009 movie, starring Chris Pine as Kirk. I don't have anything to compare him with, but I think he was a good choice. I mean, how can you go past those blue eyes? Also, those lips should be illegal on a man. I'm just sayin'... you know its true, take a closer look.
A few other notables; I have to say that I really loved Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk, even though he died in the first ten minutes. I also really loved Karl Urban as Bones. I've been a bit of a Karl Urban fan ever since I saw him in the one-season sci-fi show Almost Human. Add that to the pile of perfectly good sci-fi shows that got cancelled because of the giant, series munching machine of TV ratings.
Anyway, as a non Star Trek fan, I liked the idea that this Star Trek happened on a different timeline, or in an alternate universe because a pissed-off Romulan changed things by killing George Kirk. I'm not sure what hard-core Star Trek fans thought of this, but I liked that it became an entirely new entity to the old series, and actually wished they had of started a new TV series instead of doing the blockbuster movies.
I also like that the creators explored the idea that by going through a black hole, it emerges into an alternate reality, an actual theory that is starting to gain more ground in the scientific community. My own book series, Atrophy, touches on something similar, though in Atrophy, going through a black hole emerges in an entirely separate universe, not an alternative one, which is where my shape shifting aliens originate from.
So now I'm planning to watch the other one they brought out in 2013, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and am looking forward to the next installment coming out in 2016. I'll probably even go see that at the cinema!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ships That Aren't Shipping 2015 - Part One: Oliver and Felicity on Arrow

Its been almost a year since I did my series of posts on Ships That Aren't Shipping, But Totally Should Be. I realized the other day that not much has changed for a lot of the couples I featured, while some of the couples have ceased to exist because of show cancellations. So I thought it was about time I did a revised round up and see what a year in TV land has brought us, beginning with Oliver and Felicity on Arrow.






As previously discussed at great length on this blog, the Olicity ship has well and truly set sail. In the year since I complained about Oliver sleeping with Isabelle Rochev and getting back with Sarah, a lot has happened. Like, too much to go over in one post. But we're here to focus on the developments shipping-wise.

Though Oliver spent some time with Sarah, it was never really going to work, and he continued to grow closer to Felicity, while Felicity quite obviously fell deeper in love with Oliver. There were lots of "awww" moments between them--when they had disagreements, or little heart-to-hearts, and there were even a couple of lingering hugs.
But the peak of the Olicity buildup came in the last episode, when Oliver sequestered Felicity away in the mansion, telling her that he needed her to be safe. When Felicity refused and questioned him about it, I assumed Oliver would give her some half-cocked explanation and run out before she could call him on it.
What happened next was one of the best TV shipping moments, and will probably be my favorite for a long time to come. Oliver told Felicity that Slade had threatened to kill the woman he loved. At that, I thought "aw, he's telling her without telling her" and I could have lived with that. Except when Felicity pushed him further, Oliver answered with "So, he took the wrong woman." I almost jumped off my chair in excitement, and when he said "I love you, Felicity" I swear my heart skipped a beat.
If only I could write this stuff into my books, its like emotional crack.
Anyway, so for a while I was all glowing because Oliver had manned up and told Felicity he loved her, even though a little niggle in the back of my mind told me it was probably too good to be true. And of course, I should have listened, because it apparently all turned out to be a setup to trap the bad guy Slade Wilson.
The episode ended with Felicity and Oliver having a conversation about how it had all been a ruse. But I refused to believe it. Diggle and Felicity, and probably Laurel and Sarah had all called Oliver on what a bad liar he was. And Oliver didn't agree or disagree about his declaration being a ruse. Considering the intensity of the moment, I just couldn't believe that Oliver had been pretending.
And I was right to believe! In the very first episode of season 3, us shippers were treated to Oliver asking Felicity on a date.
I'll try to contain my gushing and keep it short. But the scenes between Oliver and Felicity were so adorable and scrumptious, I just don't know how you could watch this show and not ship Olicity. So unfortunately the date was cut short by the restaurant getting blown up. Right away, I knew the touchy feeley good times were over. Oliver was shutting down faster than you could say "save Olicity!" and wasn't going to listen to anyone telling him that pushing Felicity away wasn't the answer.
I was a little disappointed, but not surprised. After all, the writers/creators weren't going to let us shippers get our happily-ever-after that easily. Still, at least they had the decency to end the episode with a highly anticipated kiss, even if it was followed by Felicity telling Oliver it was over.
In the episodes since, the Olicity ship has been all over the place. Felicity's interests, both personally and professionally have been divided by the introduction of Ray Palmer. And just when it looked like Oliver might come around to the idea of him and Felicity being together, he went to see her just in time to catch her and Ray sharing a kiss that amounted to nothing (thank god!).
The mid-season finale treated us to the torture of Oliver telling Felicity he loved her once again, and then bidding her good-bye as he went off the fight the head of the League of Assassins. Unsurprisingly, Oliver was at last beaten in a fight, and the episode ended with him stabbed through the middle and falling off a cliff.
Last night, the return of the second half of season 3 was as agonizing as expected, with Team Arrow dealing with the realization that after not hearing from him for several days, Oliver probably wasn't coming back. The knife was twisted when it was Malcom Merlyn who came to tell them that Oliver was dead.
Of course, we all know he's not, but it was heartbreaking to see Felicity trying to accept the death of the man she loves. Right now, I'm dying to know how the Olicity reunion is going to go down, and wondering how many weeks the writers are going to keep them apart and build the unbearable tension to the point of making the shippers crazy. Though I'm imaging emotional embraces and a passionate reunion kiss, knowing Oliver, and the way this Olicity ship works, the reunion between them is likely to be frustratingly reserved with hardly any PDA.
I'm also wondering what fallout is likely to happen from this huge emotional landmine. I can only think that Felicity will either decide she can't do this anymore, and refuse to stand by and wait for the day Oliver does actually die, or on the other hand decide that she isn't going to let Oliver get in the way of their relationship any longer and work harder at convincing him they should be together. Considering Felicity's reactions this week, I believe the former will be more likely, leaving Oliver heartbroken and pretty much lost without her.
Either way, the second half of Arrow season 3 is bound to be an emotional roller-coaster for us poor Olicity shippers.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The 100 - Book vs The TV Series Verdict

Its actually been a few months since I devoured the 2 books currently available in this series - The 100 and Day 21. Admittedly I was a little bit disappointed in these books, though my expectations may have been a tad high coming from a fan of the TV series point of view.
Like Charlene Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series, which was adapted to the TV series True Blood, the producers of The 100 TV series have definitely made the concept their own, totally removed from what happens in Kass Morgan's book.
When it came to True Blood, I enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse novels as a separate entity to the TV series. Yes, they started off with the same plot and characters, but then each medium took to the concept with their own ideals, and both were equally satisfying for different reasons. Except for the last two season of True Blood, but I'm not going to get into that now.
The separation between The 100 books and the TV series happened even faster. Really, the only thing they have in common is that they started on a space-station orbiting Earth and the kids were sent to the ground.
After this point in the books, we're jumping between (I think, can't remember clearly now) 4 characters, who are telling their current story, but also giving us flashbacks. Now, I am not a fan of flashbacks, especially when a book is built on them. It seems to me, if the more interesting stuff is happening in the flashbacks, then quite possibly the author has started the story at the wrong point in the character's journey. I'm not sure why Ms Morgan couldn't have started the books a bit earlier, and have all the flashbacks happen in real time, before the kids are finally sent to the ground. Of course, it would have made the series and individual books much longer, and maybe the publisher and/or author didn't want that.
Anyway, the other thing I found a little disappointing was the lack of world building and character development. This had the potential to be a really gritty interesting post-apocalyptic survival story (which the TV series has done really well) but instead the story focused more on the usual teenager angst and romance stuff. I'm not saying I don't want to see that, I love romance and I'm totally shipping Bellarke (Bellamy and Clarke being together) both in the books and on the screen. But I just would have liked to see a more even balance. These are still really good books--don't get me wrong. I started them and almost didn't put them down until they were finished and the author's writing is easy reading. But I feel like they could have been great books, like Divergent or Hunger Games great, unfortunately they just didn't hit the mark. 
Now, for the TV series, they're almost getting it exactly right... except for the agonizing lack of Bellarke.
The creators of the TV series have done a great job of really solidifying this post-apocalyptic world and rounding out the characters so we get a satisfying sense of who they are, what they might be capable of and how far they might go when pushed to extremes. In case you can't tell, I really love the TV series at the moment, its right up there with Arrow and The Originals as one of my favorite TV shows.
If only the creators would give us even a hint of Bellamy and Clarke, then it would make this all prefect. I'm not saying I want the characters to get together right away or too quickly. More often than not, seeing the characters grow closer and overcome hurdles to get together is more entertaining and satisfying than the actual relationship anyway.
So that's my verdict. Both the books and TV series are good in their own way, but also lacking in some aspects as well.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Working Behind the Scenes

Though I haven't been posting here, on Facebook or twitter the last few weeks, I have been around, busily working behind the scenes on my website (which is still looking a bit sad and incomplete, but its getting there!) and other social media profiles to make sure everything is in shape and uniform across the board. I'll admit, this is the part of the job that I find not in the least entertaining. In fact, I hate it more than editing, and that's saying something! However, I am nearly on top of it all (I think) and I'm looking forward to getting back to writing a romantic suspense I've been playing with on and off for about the last 12 months. I'll also shortly be getting edits for Damage Control (Valiant Knox #2) and at this point, even edits are looking better than doing any more social media/website stuff!
So that's where I'm at. I have some Monday Muse posts in mind, and a few other bits and pieces I'd like to put up on my blog, but they'll have to wait until I finish getting everything else in order.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Food - Battered Baby Zucchini and Tomato Salad

I really enjoy cooking, and though I promised a while ago to share more recipes on my blog, I've been very slack in doing so!
Some days its hard to think of what I'm going to make for dinner. With three kids in the house, anything that's not chicken nuggets, sausages, bacon or chips tends to get complained about. So most nights I'm making the boring old usual like spag bol. But sometimes I just like to make something a bit different and put up with the complaining!
Being Summer here in Australia right now, I wanted something light like a salad, but knew it would have to have something filling in it to satisfy my hubby. I took an inventory of what was in my fridge and garden, and then came up with the following:



 
6 baby zucchini, or 2 large zucchini
4 medium sized tomatoes
1 cucumber
handful of basil leaves
2 rashers of bacon
2 spring onions
generous dash of olive oil
generous dash of red wine vinegar
pinch of salt
beer batter (or regular batter, whichever you prefer)
oil for frying

1) Cut zucchinis into long slices, about finger thickness. Dip in batter and flash fry (I used canola oil).
Drain on paper towel and let cool slightly.
2) Dice bacon, cook in pan until crispy. Add chopped spring onion and cook until onion has softened.
3) Using a vegetable peeler, cut cucumber into ribbons.
4) Chop up tomato and rip up basil, putting into a salad bowl with the cucumber ribbons. Its at this point that I salt the tomato and cucumber, before letting sit for a few minutes, and then adding the olive oil and red wine vinegar, before giving a quick mix.
5) Once the zucchini has sufficiently cooled, add to cucumber, tomato and basil in the bowl.
6) Add bacon and spring onions, before tossing all together (don't over mix or your battered zucchini might go soggy)
7) Serve right away as a main or delish side meal.






Post meal note:
While this dish was very yummy as it was, I realized when I was eating that it probably would have been better with crispy prosciutto instead of bacon (which I didn't have on hand, though I usually do!) and a soft cheese like bocconcini (uncured mozzarella) or chevre (soft goats cheese). So next time I make it, I'll be trying it with those two slight alterations.

Beer Batter:
2/3 cup of plain white flour
150ml chilled beer (I use light beer because that's what hubby keeps in the fridge, not sure if heavy or light makes a difference)
pinch of salt
tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowel and use immediately. Apparently the batter isn't as good once the mixture loses that initial chill.