Guest Post by author Gareth Worthington
First off, let’s get the advertisement piece out of the way. My latest novel, co-written with Stu Jones, It Takes Death to Reach a Star, is currently kicking butt. At the time of writing, we have won the New York Book Festival 2018 sci fi category, been shortlisted for Chanticleer’s Cygnus award and are on the official finalist’s ballot for a Dragon Award (set up to be an alternative to the Hugo Award). It’s also in development for TV/film with Vesuvian Media and Boilermaker Entertainment – founded by the director/producers of the famous CSI TV series franchise.
Stu and I are as happy as clams.
That said, today, I am going to talk about something not so happy, very real and pertinent to the book and me: mental health.
For those of you who have not read the book, it is told from two points of view in first person present tense. Stu wrote Mila (named after my daughter) – a tough, badass character who survived the slums. She’s witty and cool and readers across the board have spouted their love for her. Understandably.
I wrote Demitri. He’s part of an elite race, a quiet scientist, a little afraid, and very tortured inside – mostly due to an evil voice in his head called Vedmak. Readers are often split on whether they like Demitri, some saying they wished he was brave or stronger, some wishing to give him a big hug; yet these same readers all love Vedmak, who for all intents and purposes is a complete [insert expletive here]. Vedmak is viscous and evil to the core.
Here’s the important bit that perhaps these same readers miss: Vedmak only works, because Demitri is meek.
Let me back up.
Demitri was born of two things. Firstly, he is the product of my own condition: Borderline Personality Disorder. While symptoms vary, those that manifest in me include: frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment; splitting (“black-and-white” thinking), self-damaging behavior (suicide), and distorted self-image. The cause of BPD can vary; however, mine can be traced back to an abused childhood. My father was very mentally and physically abusive and we lived in social housing in a very bad neighborhood for twenty years. This latter piece, is Vedmak.*
When writing a character like Demitri, I wanted him to be very real. Equally, I wanted readers to feel the evil that is Vedmak. For Vedmak – or any bully – to have power, the bullied have to be weak. And so, writing what I know, I endowed Demitri with all of the inner doubts and fears and struggles that have plagued me for a good chunk of my own life. And for Vedmak, I drew on the years of mental torture from my father (and surrounding environment). Like Vedmak, my father only had power, because I was weak then.
I’m not writing this to garner sympathy or tell a sob story. I have my BPD under control for the most part, and I have spent more than thirty years building myself a very nice life. I’m good! Instead, I hope people read Demitri and understand a little better what it is like to doubt yourself every day and suffer at the hands of a bully.
Everyone would like to believe that they would be strong in the face of adversity – but for some, that choice just isn’t as easy. For some, the ultimate goal of feeling good in our skin seems just so far away. For some, it may very well take death to reach a star.
*Disclaimer: Vedmak plays a HUGE role in the book, beyond his torturing Demitri. He is also not my father so you’re allowed to like him!
It Takes Death to Reach a Star
By Stu Jones & Gareth Worthington
Genre: Sci Fi, dystopian, apocalyptic
THE WORLD YOU KNOW IS DEAD. WE DID THIS TO OURSELVES.
The epidemic struck at the end of the Third World War. Fighting over oil, power, and religion, governments ignored the rise of an anti-bacterial-resistant plague. In just five years, the Earth was
annihilated. Only one city survived—Etyom—a frozen hell-hole in northern Siberia, still engulfed in conflict.
The year is 2251.
Two groups emerged from the ashes of the old world. Within the walled city of Lower Etyom, dwell the Robusts—descendants of the poor who were immune to The New Black Death. Above them, in a metropolis of pristine platforms called Lillipads, live the Graciles—the progeny of the super-rich; bio-engineered to resist the plague.
Mila Solokoff is a Robust who trades information in a world where knowing too much can get you killed. Caught in a deal-gone-bad, she’s forced to take a high-risk job for a clandestine organization hell-bent on revolution.
Demitri Stasevich is a Gracile with a dark secret—a sickness that, if discovered, will surely get him Ax’d. His only relief is an illegal narcotic produced by the Robusts, and his only means of obtaining it is a journey to the arctic hell far below New Etyom.
Thrust together in the midst of a sinister plot that threatens all life above and below the cloud line, Mila and Demitri must master their demons and make a choice—one that will either salvage what’s left of the human race, or doom it to extinction…
Praise for ITDTRAS
“… merging the best of apocalyptic fiction and science fiction… compelling.” ~ Library Journal
“Cinematic, thought provoking, and immersive, this is an option for fans of darker, grittier, and more science-focused dystopias in the manner of the novels of Philip K. Dick.” ~ Booklist
“… I cannot fathom how Stu Jones and Gareth Worthington created this masterpiece.” ~ Readers’ Favorite
“…this new series has the potential to render popular franchises like the Hunger Games, the Maze Runner, and Divergent as mere forerunners in the genre.” ~jathanandheather.com
About Gareth Worthington
Gareth Worthington BSc PhD is a trained marine biologist and also holds a doctorate in comparative endocrinology. Currently, Gareth works full time for the pharmaceutical industry helping to educate the world’s doctors on new cancer therapies. His debut novel, Children of the Fifth Sun, won in the Science Fiction category at the London Book Festival 2017. He has a number of passions, including: martial arts (he trained in Muay Thai at the prestigious EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore), studying ancient history, and most of all writing fiction. Born in England, Gareth resides in Switzerland.
About Stu Jones
Stu Jones has served full time as a law enforcement officer for twelve years. Over the course of his career he has worked as an investigator, an instructor teaching SWAT close quarters and defensive tactics, and as a member and team leader of a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team. He is also trained and qualified as a law enforcement SWAT sniper, as well as in hostage rescue and high-risk entry tactics. He is an Eagle Scout, a lifelong martial artist, and an avid outdoorsman.
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrGWorthington
On Amazon: https://amzn.to/2uoafnV
On B&N: https://bit.ly/2KZbBjg
On Kobo: https://bit.ly/2NUczLy
|Chapter One: MILA|
No matter how badly I want it to be different this time, in the end I still die.
We all do.
I lie on the cot, cold sweat clinging to my skin, arms raised to my face, stuck like a marionette tangled in its own strings. The dream feels so real. Another breath—count it out. In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four. My heart slows, my mind no longer caught in the grip of the terrifying dream: a battle in which I play a critical role, yet I’m no soldier. This nightmare stalks me night after night, and even though I know I’m dreaming, I’m powerless to prevent the inevitable—the coming of Death.
The alarm on my personal electronic device, or PED, chirrups three times: 05:00. Not much sleep during the dark hours, again. I squeeze my shoulders, rubbing away the dull, muscular ache, and try to remember the fading embrace of a brother who now feels far away. A deep breath in, a slow exhale out. Get up already, Mila.
The frigid floor stings my bare feet. I shrug into a few less-than-clean garments and pull on my boots. The stale smell of the attire fills my throat. A shiver crawls across my skin. Sard, it’s cold. Gotta find something warmer. After rummaging through a pile of soiled clothes that lie in the corner of my room, I pull out a short leather jacket, its collar lined with fur—though from what animal is unclear. Shaking it hard a few times, I stare at the fur lining. I know the lice are in there somewhere. No time to try and clean it now. The jacket slips over my shoulders, the ice-cold collar snugging up around my neck. It stinks like dead rat.
My PED and my precious collection of writings go into my satchel, carefully so as not to crush the worn old picture that lies at the bottom. I fish out the faded image of Zevry and me. I can be no more than eight-years old in this photo. He’s grinning, as usual, with one arm wrapped around my shoulder. It was taken more than twenty years ago—yet little seems to have changed. Still have roughly cut short hair, now with a streak of color in the front. Still have a lean, almost boyish frame—though I’ve added some piercings and tattoos over the years in an attempt to distinguish myself. And then of course there’s my scar—cutting its pink path across my forehead and left eye. Slashed deep into my face not long after this picture was taken, it’s a permanent reminder you don’t walk the streets alone in a place like Etyom.
No time for this. I stuff the picture back into my satchel and head out the door without locking it. Anything worth stealing is already on me—and it wouldn’t take much to force the door to my closet-sized room anyway.
My boots creak on the rickety stairs leading into the bar below. It’s quiet now, a far cry from the bedlam hours earlier. Smoke hangs lazily in the air, like the memory of an old ghost.
“Come on, Clief.” I cough. “How do you breathe this stuff night after night?”
The man at the bar raises his head but continues to wipe down the counter. “Oh, it’s not that bad. Sorta like burning plastic.” He offers a tired smile. “Off so early?”
“Every day.” Still pinching my nose and squinting, I make my way toward the door. “I’m serious. Get some fresh air in here. That botchi is going to scramble what’s left of your tiny brain.”
He huffs out a laugh. “And that out there? That’s where you get the fresh air?”
“You know what I mean.”
As I push open the door, the wind hits me like a frozen punch in the mouth. Going out in this icy hell never gets easier. The streets are dark and cold, shadows upon shadows concealing the horrors of Etyom. It’s hard to believe this place was once considered a haven. Long ago, it was a vast, sprawling gulag-turned-mining community called Norilsk. Between World War III and the New Black Death, nearly nine billion people around the world lost their lives. Those who were left fled their homes and cities in search of someplace safer. For many, this barren hell hole was it. The conflict hadn’t fully destroyed the city, and the New Black Death struggled to take hold in the brutal Siberian climate. Survival was possible here.
A mass migration followed; the Russian government was helpless to stop it. Outside Norilsk, organized social structure, atleast the way people understood it then, gasped its final dying breath. And then, silence. Communications with the outside world went dark. Zev said anyone who hadn’t died in the war succumbed to the New Black Death. It was then everyone here knew they were truly alone. They chose to isolate themselves, even renamed the city Etyom. My brother and I weren’t born for another few hundred years, the descendants of those who fought to survive. We’re fighters, Mil. Survivors. Nothing can keep us down. That’s why we’re called Robusts. But then why didn’t you come home to me, brother?
I pull the jacket closer around my neck. Bilgi’s place is only a block away, and it’s a good thing, too, because with average temps below zero, the wind is cutting through me like a razor. I half run, half walk, down the quiet street, torn between wanting to get there fast and not wanting to bust my tail on the ice.
Six raps with my knuckles in the practiced manner and the rickety door immediately opens. Bilgi waits inside. His simple place is lit by a single oil lamp. It’s barren and less than inviting, but I’m not here to be pampered.
“Love me so much, you just wait for me by the door now?”
“If you would rather stand on the stoop a little longer, then be my guest,” he answers in a clipped tone, ushering me in.
“Come on, let’s do it already. I need to get my blood pumping.”
The words are barely out of my mouth, my arms still stuck in the sleeves of my jacket, when he lunges forward. I see it coming, but the impact still throttles me as Bilgi’s heavy hands encircle my neck and drive me against the wall. My hair scatters across my face. Bring it, old man. The jacket comes free, and with a flurry of punches and a swift roundhouse kick to Bilgi’st high, I drive him back.
by C.S. Hand
For fans of Divergent, Red Rising, and The Hunger Games comes a gripping new tale of ambition, treachery, and love.
When what appears as a prank on arrogant ambassadors at an exotic vacation city turns out to be the first tremors of a revolution, the Enlightened Council of Castillia turns to its 11-year old undefeated military prodigy and her loyal Guardians for help.
After all, it was Innocence who liberated the Jewel of All Cities in the first place. Everyone knows she will be the last to let it slip from her grasp.
But why would anyone want to leave Castillia? Its laws are just. Its Council is democratically elected. It has liberated more cities than any other Republic, past or present.
But Castillia has enemies, that’s for sure.
Sedition is the favorite trick of the southern Republic Ausonia. In fact, the exotic vacation city used to belong to Ausonia—and they have always wanted it back.
But could those hedonists really organize anything between all their dancing and drinking?
Or has Vesper, the mighty Republic to the North finally woken from its slumber? It has plenty of old scores to settle with Castillia and it’s palm-lined streets.
Squashing the uprising and re-uniting the town and her city could be the perfect way to end the most legendary military career Castillia has ever known and begin a new, exhilarating life as a prominent politician.
But it also might just be the perfect way to start what Innocence has secretly always yearned for: her own Empire.
Salute“As long as the enemy is not defeated, he may defeat me; then I shall no longer be my own master; he will dictate the law to me as I did to him.”ClausewitzWhen I was six I commanded the Sun Battalion to charge the center of Ausonia’s forces at Serenissima, the most beautiful and opulent city on this planet.Every single man, woman, and child from that legendary unit died in the melee.But it broke Ausonia’s center and then we out flanked them—on both sides.Ausonians begged for their lives, but when you lose your Republic’s most famous battalion you cannot allow for survivors.Even if you have just stolen the jewel of cities from an enemy’s grasp.When I was seven I saw my own army nearly overrun.That was until I came out from my command hub and grabbed the banner from a fleeing Guardian and turned Lazarus on, then began sweeping through the enemy’s ranks with my sword of trembling lightning.That was the first time I had ever been shot more than thirteen times.When I was eight I had to execute my second-in-command for treason. We were low on ammunition and my lightning blade wouldn’t turn on, so I had to do it with a rock.When I was nine I led a lightning-sabre charge straight into the heart of Vesper’s Hyper Accelerated Rifles.Everyone but a child named Beatrice was mowed down.But between myself and Beatrice and the second, third, and fourth fearless waves we cut them to pieces.The problem with Hyper Accelerated Rifles is if they fire too fast for too long they overheat and then don’t fire at all.That was not the first time I had killed defenseless human beings—and enjoyed it.When I was ten I ambushed Jacob Heist and his band of outlaws who were traveling to various cities in the South preaching about freedom and liberation and brotherhood—the very ideals my City was founded upon.They said we were the very opposite of those things and that we were what they called a “Dysotpia,” which is a new word used by uneducated thugs to incite rebellions against people like me.When we ambushed them on the shore and they didn’t even try to run I assumed it was because they knew it was over.They had no weapons but refused to surrender, even after I offered it to them a second time.So we murdered the band of outlaws and searched for the weapon we knew we would find, “The Chariot Buster,” which they usually used to blow our ships out of the sky.Heist and his gang loved to beam our hovercrafts into vapor, like he did the previous seventeen times we tried to ambush him. In fact, he did it so much, we called it “bait and beam.”But all we found in his traveling caravan were hundreds of copies of an unsettling novel from some ancient planet about an elf and a minotaur who overthrow an entire world.If that isn’t criminal literature worthy of suppression then I don’t know what is.What I also didn’t know was that we were being recorded and streamed live over an inventive social media application called Periscope.So it looked like I butchered a peaceful intellectual on a paradisiacal white sand beach in spite of his repeated cries for mercy and justice.Blogs went crazy.They reported that we murdered them when they were defenseless and did terrible things to their corpses.What they didn’t mention is that my dogs were starving and that we had a long march back. We weren’t going to be the ones eaten alive.Besides, you can’t take heavy machinery on an ambush.The outlaw preachers would have heard us coming miles away.So I had to take the dogs.And the dogs had to eat.There were hundreds of uprisings.I crushed them all.My City stood by my side. Esteemed Council members lost their seats because of me, some had attempts made on their lives, and some were successfully assassinated.That’s when I learned someone can strike at you even from death, and when possible never turn an enemy, who is mortal and fallible, into a martyr, who is infallible and immortal.I’m eleven now, and this is my last year as Commander.After this year I will retire from my duties as a Guardian of the Republic, squelching rebellions from the other cities who never pay their tributes on time, are never fair in their dealings, and are always plotting against my perfect, beautiful City.Oh, my name is Innocence—which as far as I can tell is just some made-up word.
- What is your writing process? Do you aim for a word count daily or maybe just a scene?
I either write early in the morning, nap…more like a deep sleep through the afternoon…and then write again late at night or only write late at night, from about 9 or 10 until 3 in the morning.
There used to be a lot of red bull and monster energy drinks involved, now I’m down to just some good coffee and silence—the secret charm to call the muses.
Ok and Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, the Offspring, Linkin Park, and AC/DC and some other bands and musicians that seem to help me write.
I aim for working through ideas or scenes which usually amounts to 2-5k words.
Those are the best days.
Other days, usually after I’ve broken through writer’s block to unleash a fresh wellspring of good writing and am sure I’ve finally found an endless font, the muses leave me and it feels like I’ve had brain surgery and have no thoughts at all.
- What sort of research did you do for this book?
All reading this time and no killing. But hey, I’m working on a book 2 so…
I revisited my roots in political philosophy which meant reading and re-reading Plato, Plutarch’s Lives, Seneca, Horace, Ovid, and some other ancient Greek and Romans (which is way less exciting than it sounds) before settling in with some really exhilarating Enlightenment philosophers like Kant and Hegel.
Importantly, though, I also wanted this book to “participate” in the dystopian fiction space. So I read the Hunger Games, Divergent, Red Rising, Legend from Marie Lu (whose Legend books I love utterly) and there are references to the Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Rising sprinkled throughout.
- What are you working on now? Any chance of a sequel?
There is! I am already working on the second installment of the series and a prequel exclusively for people who sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dyc7G5.
- How did you come up for the idea of your book?
Taylor Swift. I think Taylor Swift is the Julius Caesar of the 21st century.
One day after reading Julius Caesar’s Life by Plutarch I thought, what if I wrote a story about an ambitious, charismatic girl with the military prowess of Julius Caesar in an epoch when warfare was an acceptable way to gain notoriety and music was (in some cities) frowned upon as illegal.
For the setting, I was outside wondering around my parent’s back yard on a winter night when the air is quite frigorific and the sky is cuttingly clear and you can see all the stars—and maybe even a little bit of the past, present, and future if you squint hard enough.
And I just thought about all the lives that haven’t happened on the stars that I can see, and all the lives that must have happened further out in the darkness that I can’t see.
So I decided to put the story on a wild star hundreds of thousands if not millions of lightyears away from our own world, where the remnants of the human race have crashed and created a burgeoning outpost among in the heavens.
- Just for fun — what TV shows or movies have you really enjoyed (or disliked?) recently?
There are so many great TV shows and movies it’s hard to keep this list short, but here goes:
- The Expanse
- Charmed (I didn’t watch much TV growing up…so I’m catching up!)
- Jessica Jones
- Mr. Robot
- Rogue One
The Last Jedi (sorry couldn’t resist)
C. S. Hand loves philosophy, literature, and science-fiction and fantasy books. He studied British Romanticism at Cambridge before leaving to translate great science-fiction and fantasy books. You can read more about his 3 great loves here.
Blog Tour Organized by:
This is my stop during the blog tour for Everything Under the Sun by Jessica Redmerski. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 30 July till 12 August. See the tour schedule here.
By Jessica Redmerski
Genre: Dystopian/ Post apocalyptic
Age category: Young Adult/ New Adult/ Adult
Pages: 683 pages
Release Date: 28 August 2017
Thais Fenwick was eleven-years-old when civilization fell, devastated by a virus that killed off the majority of the world’s population. For seven years, Thais and her family lived in a community of survivors deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. But when her town is attacked by raiders, she and her blind sister are taken away to the East-Central Territory where she is destined to live the cruel and unjust kind of life her late mother warned her about.
Atticus Hunt is a troubled soldier in Lexington City who has spent the past seven years trying to conform to the vicious nature of men in a post-apocalyptic society. He knows that in order to survive, he must abandon his morals and his conscience and become like those he is surrounded by. But when he meets Thais, morals and conscience win out over conformity, and he risks his rank and his life to help her. They escape the city and set out together on a long and perilous journey to find safety in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Struggling to survive in a world without electricity, food, shelter, and clean water, Atticus and Thais shed their fear of growing too close, and they fall hopelessly in love. But can love survive in such dark times, or is it fated to die with them?
You can find Everything Under the Sun on Goodreads
You can buy Everything Under the Sun here on Amazon
I can’t stick to one genre. I love writing all types of stories. Does it work for me? Yes and no. Yes, because I’d start to feel claustrophobic if I had to write in the same genre all the time. No, because I think it confuses my readers that I write everything under the same author name. I regret that decision to this day. My advice to authors considering it: Don’t make this mistake! I’m in the process now of correcting that error.
How do you plot your novels? Do you outline?
I never outline because I like to let the story and the characters take me where they want to go. Some authors can outline very well and it works for them, but I can’t do it. It has always felt more natural to me to just go along for the ride and see where it takes me, kind of like in real life, I guess. Some scenes in my books were figured out ahead of time, but not ‘planned out’ ahead of time, and there’s a big difference. The only exception to this method is that I do always know my ending before I begin. (Except with my book DIRTY EDEN)
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
The last sentence. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love getting into the story, living out my character’s lives, but there’s nothing like a finished manuscript. It’s a huge accomplishment and I doubt I’ll ever tire of it.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have a favorite – I have several! Anne Rice and Neil Gaiman I have admired for many years. I love Rice’s deep, descriptive style and Gaiman’s unique ideas. But I also love Paullina Simons and Cormac McCarthy – there are just so many! And, of course, there’s J.K. Rowling, but I don’t really have to name her, do I? Isn’t she everybody’s favorite by default? 😊
How important is it to understand the basics of publishing before delving into self‐publishing?
Writers need to understand that self‐publishing is not easy. Sure, you can write a book and upload it and start selling, but there is so much more to it than that. If a writer chooses to self‐publish they must commit to some hardcore self‐promoting and spending a lot of their own money (professional editing, giveaways, review copies, cover art, advertisements, etc.). Bypassing all of this stuff can leave your book buried beneath the avalanche of millions of other books competing for the same exposure.
Jessica Redmerski is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, international bestseller, and award winner, who juggles several different genres. She began self-publishing in 2012, and later with the success of THE EDGE OF NEVER, signed on with Grand Central Publishing/Forever Romance. Her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Jessica is a hybrid author who, in addition to working with a traditional publisher, also continues to self-publish. Her popular crime and suspense series, In the Company of Killers, has been optioned for television and film by actor and model William Levy.
She also writes as J.A. Redmerski.
You can find and contact Jessica here:
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Everything Under the Sun. 3 winners will each win a signed paperback copies of Everything Under the Sun, along with signed bookmarks and postcards (United States and Canada only).
For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
Rain on Neptune
By Lisa Jade
Genre: Sci Fi, Dystopian
In the city of Pyre, only those with excellent genetics can visit Earth’s colony planets, including the legendary Orithyia. Those without this advantage live in relative poverty, under the forceful control of the Council.
Quinn isn’t one of Pyre’s elite, though she’s desperate to see the stars. After an incident with the Council’s thugs, she stows away on the latest ship to launch, the Neptune.
But when a series of deadly ‘accidents’ occur on board, Quinn and her new friends must figure out who’s orchestrating the attacks – and why.
About the Author
Lisa Jade is a fiction writer based in the UK. She lives in Shropshire with her husband and mostly writes Science Fiction, Dystopian and Post-apocalyptic fiction. With two novels already available, she is currently working on a number of new projects.
Having joined her local writer’s group, Lisa has been involved with the creation of annual anthologies, as well as attending and hosting writing workshops. She also regularly takes part in flash fiction competitions and has had a number of pieces of short fiction published.
Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2meayNv
Amazon US – https://amzn.to/2N8RVWA
Goodreads – https://bit.ly/2mehn1x
I wait until the early hours before sneaking out. I creep down the stairs and past Dad’s room, reassured by his squeaky snoring, and pull my rucksack from the cupboard. I try to be even quieter than normal tonight – Alice decided to stay over for once, dozing in the box room that sits upstairs, next to mine. Perhaps she sensed some tension between the two of us and took it on herself to provide a barrier to keep us from clashing. I’ll never call her out on it, but secretly I’m immensely grateful.
Even so, I don’t want her to know where I’m going. If they wake in the night, they’ll know exactly where to find me; but they have no clue how often I’m out here. How often I slip away.
There’s an absolute silence over Level Four as I make my way towards the edge. Despite the warm day, the night is bitterly cold. I tug my jacket a little tighter around myself.
Eventually, I reach a rusted sign. DANGER – KEEP OUT is scrawled across it in what looks like spray paint. A half-hearted, last-ditch effort to keep people like me away from the Drop-off.
None of the Levels have external fences. The floor simply drops away into the darkness, meaning that a drunken stumble or accidental misstep can spell disaster. It’s not quite so bad on the upper Levels – they’re smaller, so falling just means you hit the next floor down. It’s still certain death of course, but here? When there’s nothing but miles of ocean below and no way of being found?
Only a lunatic would come out here.
I nudge past the sign and keep walking.
Here, the lights of Pyre fall away. The cobbles underfoot sink down into a smooth, white tile. This tile is always underfoot in Pyre, though it’s usually disguised by concrete or shrubbery. Sometimes, it’s bizarre to think about it. Pyre is just a massive airship floating over the Atlantic – and yet, somehow, it’s become a country in its own right.
But I don’t care about that – not right now.
Because as the lights fade, and the chaos of the day sinks back into the folds of my memory, I’m captivated by the stars.
The sky overhead is inky blackness decorated with a tapestry of stars. Swathes of deep blue and indigo swirl above me, highlighted every so often by a splash of pink. The lonely moon resembles a silver disc that sinks into the glittering canvas. And the stars themselves – a million tiny, indifferent specks, images created a billion years ago. Many are already dead, burnt out millions of years ago. In their place are millions of others, stars I’ll never see, patterns that will cascade through the sky like brushstrokes on a scorched, blackened wall.
I can’t help it. When I think about the beauty that must be out there, how long a simple thing might take, how impossible it all seems – I’m filled with strange emotions.
Excitement. Ambition. Hope. And a wonderful, indescribable, near-painful sense of joy.
Link to Giveaway:
Naomi doesn’t expect anything unusual from her annual family trip to visit her grandparents in Ireland. What she expects is to celebrate her thirteenth birthday, hang out with her friends Ciara and Shehan, and deal with her gran’s Alzheimer’s. What she finds is a country hit by an unexpected virus that rapidly infects the majority of the Irish population over the age of twenty-one.
Amnestic-Delirium Syndrome (ADS) starts off with memory loss, but the virus soon turns its victims aggravated, blank, or violent. Naomi and her friends must survive on their own, without lucid adults, cut off from the rest of the world, until a cure is found.
But there are whispers that ADS is not terrestrial, and soon Naomi and her friends learn the frightening truth: we are not alone.
- What is your writing routine? Do you aim for a word count, to tackle a certain number of pages at a time, or do you go scene by scene? (Something else?)
I do some preparation (research, emails, sometimes a bit of social networking stuff) in the morning. I find I can’t get into a good creative groove before about eleven a.m. so that’s when I start writing in earnest. Usually, I’m working from some kind of rough outline but the further I get into the book the more it tends to diverge from what I anticipated might happen. That’s cool because it means I’m usually surprised rather than knowing exactly the way a book will unfold. It takes on a life of its own.
I used to have a word count I tried to reach each day but four years ago I developed health issues and was diagnosed with polyneuropathy. Now it’s very uncomfortable to sit still for long periods (or stand or walk for long periods!) so I have to keep getting up, moving and shift positions and stuff. Overall this has shortened my daily writing period so I don’t have a word count or set number of pages I try to reach; I just do what I can, all the better if I can get a scene finished.
2. What was your inspiration for your book? What was the most fun and the most difficult part of getting the story just right?
I love zombie movies and also plague outbreak movies in general so with Stricken I kind of married the two. The infected in this book aren’t zombies but they’re certainly not themselves and some of them are dangerous (others aren’t at all). On a deeper level, at the time I was writing Stricken I didn’t know my mother had Alzheimer’s but I’d known for years that something wasn’t right. I think that was very much in my consciousness and that it shaped aspects of the book. Stricken is my first middle grade and writing from a younger point of view was so refreshing. But it was my editor’s idea to include lists, which became the most fun part for me. Who doesn’t love lists! On the other hand, the most difficult part was finding a good point to end the book while still leaving room for more in the future because I knew the story in its entirety was too long for one book.
3. What are your favorite books? What authors inspire you the most?
There are so many authors and books I love. In the past year I discovered Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friends Exorcism and Horrorstor and ate them both up. Recently I was also delighted by graphic novel Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me by Lorina Mapa. I’m always finding new inspiration. I’m usually more excited to read something new or an author I haven’t read before than to revisit books or familiar authors. I’ve been writing speculative and horror-leaning stuff lately so I’ve been reading more in those areas, but one of my forever favourites remains The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. I’m also an enormous fan of Judy Blume who showed me, as a young person, what it looks to be unflinchingly truthful about young people’s lives.
4. Odd question – what TV shows do you like?
This is a great question because I just finished watching the Americans finale and it’s one of my favourite shows of all time. It’s incredibly character driven for a show about spies. All the relationships are so nuanced and intricate. There are multiple levels to every conversation and action and you feel you know and cared about the main characters so much (even when they do horrible things) that it makes every single thing that happens all the more gripping. But I like a lot of different kinds of shows: Wilderness survival show Alone, makeup artist contest Face Off, Stranger Things, The Crown, This is Us, The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m sad that this is the final season of Nashville; I’m really going to miss it. I’m also a big fan of Star Trek Discovery and Doctor Who (I can’t wait to see Jodie Whittaker as the doctor!).
5. Lastly, is there anything else we should know about you? Do you like to listen to music when writing? What book projects are on the horizon for you?
I need quiet to be able to put myself in the world of my characters. Sometimes I’ll actually listen to white noise to block out noise from neighbouring apartments. I do like listening to music beforehand though, to help put me in a certain frame of mind that matches up with whatever I’m working on. In the past, I wrote a lot of contemporary young adult books and while I might return to that at some point these days I feel a strong pull to horror, sci-fi, and storylines with fantastical elements. I have a speculative YA, horror YA and a sci-fi MG that I’ve been working on but I’m not sure which will see the light of day first.
Thanks so much for having me over to bookblogarama to talk bookish things!
About the Author
Long before I was an author I was a fan of books about Winnie the Pooh, Babar, Madeline, Anne Shirley and anything by Judy Blume. Throughout high school my favourite class was English. No surprise, then, that most of my time spent at York University in Toronto was as an English major—not the traditional way to graduate with a B.A. (Hons) in film studies but a fine way to get a general arts education.
After getting my film studies degree I headed for Dublin, Ireland and spent the majority of the nineties there in forgettable jobs meeting unforgettable people and enjoying the buzz. I always believed I’d get around to writing in earnest eventually, and I began writing my first novel in a flat in Dublin and finished it in a Toronto suburb. By then I’d discovered that fiction about young people felt the freshest and most exciting to me. You have most of your life to be an adult but you only grow up once.
Currently residing near Toronto with my Dub husband, I’m an aunt to twenty-one nieces and nephews, and a great-aunt to two great-nephews. I became an Irish citizen in 2001 and continue to visit Dublin as often as I can while working on novels about young people.
My first young adult book, I Know It’s Over, came out with Random House in September 2008, and was followed by One Lonely Degree, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, My Beating Teenage Heart and sci-fi thriller Yesterday. I released Yesterday’s sequel, Tomorrow, in 2013 and put out my first adult novel, Come See About Me, as an ebook in June 2012. My most recent contemporary YA books, The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing and Delicate, were published by Cormorant Books’ Dancing Cat Books imprint in 2014 and 2015.
Link to Goodreads:
One (1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a digital copy of Yellow Locust by Justin Joschko (INT)
Link to Giveaway:
Yellow Locust by Justin Joschko
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Selena Flood is a fighter of preternatural talent. But not even her quick fists and nimble feet could save her parents from the forces of New Canaan, the most ruthless and powerful of the despotic kingdoms populating America-that-was.
Forced to flee the tyrannical state with her younger brother Simon in tow, Selena is now the last chance for peace in a continent on the verge of complete destruction.
In her pocket is a data stick, the contents of which cost her parents their lives. Selena must now ensure it reaches the Republic of California—a lone beacon of liberty shining across a vast and barren wasteland—before it’s too late.
Between New Canaan and California stretch the Middle Wastes: thousands of desolate miles home to murderers, thieves, and a virulent strain of grass called yellow locust that has made growing food all but impossible. So when Selena and Simon stagger into Fallowfield, an oasis of prosperity amidst the poisoned plains, everything seems too good to be true—including the warm welcome they receive from the town’s leader, a peculiar man known only as The Mayor.
As Selena delves deeper into the sinister secrets of this seemingly harmless refuge, she soon learns there is a much darker side to Fallowfield and the man who runs it. Before long, she must call upon the skills she honed in the fighting pits of New Canaan to ensure not only her own survival, but that of her brother, in whom the Mayor has taken far too keen an interest.
And she’d better act fast, for an all-out war inches ever closer, and New Canaan is never as far away as it seems.
Why You’ll Love this book
I’m gonna be honest here: I really don’t know if you’ll love this book or not. It seems presumptuous to assume you will—there are plenty of books heralded as great or essential that I didn’t care for, so why should Yellow Locust be sacrosanct?
So instead, I thought I’d tell you why I love this book. Feel free to agree or disagree with any of them.
1) It has a kick-ass protagonist. Selena Flood knows how to bust heads. A seventeen-year-old street brawler, Selena is a pampered member of New Canaan’s elite Seraphim who scorned the posh gyms and gentlemen’s leagues of her native class in order to hone her skills in the roughest fighting pits of New Canaan’s slums. When her parents are executed for treason, Selena flees her homeland but takes her fighting skills with her, along with a data stick containing highly sensitive intel and enough anger to fuel a thousand brawls. It doesn’t take her long to find a way to put her talents to use on the road, for America-that-was is a dangerous place, and the most savage parts of it are those that pretend to be civilized. Which leads me to…
2) It has a great villain. Though driven by the threat of New Canaan’s impending war, most of Yellow Locust is set a thousand miles from the empire’s border, in a bucolic farming community called Fallowfield. With lush crops and well-fed citizens, Fallowfield stands in stark contrast to the lands around it, which unfurl with mile after mile of a blighted, poison plant called yellow locust. Running the show in Fallowfield is a man known only as The Mayor, a foppish figure with a charming smile beneath a pair of reflective sunglasses. He greets Selena and Simon warmly, offers them every kindness, but behind his mirrored lenses lurk unknown intentions. Erudite, devious, and ruthlessly intelligent, The Mayor is my favorite type of villain—the kind who’d sink a knife in your back if necessary, but would rather trick your friend into doing the deed instead, the better to keep from getting his hands dirty.
3) It has a lot of action. Street brawls, knife fights, ambushes, insurgencies—the world of Yellow Locust is a violent place. Not a great place to live, but a lot of fun to write about (and hopefully to read about, too!)
4) It took me a long time to write. Yellow Locust is a book ten years in the making, a cask-aged brew given ample time to mellow. The manuscript swelled to 150,000 words and whittled down to 90,000, shed plots and characters, survived a crucible of edits to emerge sleek and sharp and hard as steel. None of this might mean much to the reader, but after all that work, how could I not love the thing?
Anyhow, those are my reasons. I hope you agree, but even more so, I hope you pick it up and give it a chance.
About the Author
Justin Joschko is an author from Niagara Falls, Ontario. His writing has appeared in newspapers and literary journals across Canada. Yellow Locust is his first novel. He currently lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.