Thursday, 19 July 2018

Celebrating #Windsor Writers: Authors in the Limelight featuring Brittni Brinn…


Windsor author, Brittni Brinn had the awesome idea to cross-promote with four authors in the area, and graciously invited me to participate to be one of those guinea pigs…er authors. I jumped at the opportunity of course, so for the next three Thursdays I’ll be hosting Brittni, along with Ben Van Dongen and Justine Alley Dowsett. I’ll be the author featured on the fourth Thursday, sharing a ‘behind the scenes’ post about the process of writing the first book in my Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls teen psychic mystery series, Lost and Found. For Brittni’s post, I decided to resurrect my ‘Authors in the Limelight’ interview series, where I get to ask an author eight questions about their newest book, and how they deal with life as a writer. So, without further ado, let’s get this interview started…
 
Welcome, Brittni! How long have you been writing?

I've been writing since I was pretty young. I suppose I started writing because my parents gave me a journal when I was 7. It had a lock with a small key, and I loved it. But writing stories I think started more around grade five. I had a teacher who encouraged me to pursue writing and a classmate who wrote beautiful stories she would read aloud. I read a ton of books at that age too. A lot of those influences shaped my interest in storytelling. So, after I decided not to be a scientist, I decided to be a writer.

A scientist, eh? Makes sense that you followed your heart and wrote in the science fiction genre! Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write The Patch Project?

It started with a short story I wrote in my undergrad. Just a small piece about a married couple spending Christmas in the apocalypse. I took it to a Sci-Fi conference for writers and submitted it to an editor panel. One of the editors expressed interest in the story and asked to see a manuscript. So I started writing a novel. I'd been reading A Canticle for Leibowitz and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? around that time, and the post-apocalyptic genre appealed to me. But I wanted to do something different.

Okay, so what sets The Patch Project apart from other books in the same genre?

The aspect that most sets it apart from contemporary post-apocalyptic novels is that The Patch Project isn't about an exterior threat. There are no zombies, no monsters. No incurable epidemic. The event that wipes out most of the world is mysterious. It's the resulting isolation and character shifts that drive the story. Characters are dealing with new abilities as well as personal loss. The main questions become Who am I, now that this has happened? What should I do now?

Wait…no zombies? Now that’s refreshing! As an author, what is your writing process, Brittni?

I take naps? Those help, but I suppose writing just happens. When I'm on the bus or after watching a play. Sometimes I write something because I'm inspired. Sometimes out of boredom. But it usually starts with a specific image or a specific character. Once I have that in mind, I write how the first scene plays out. Then I leave it for awhile, think about it, come back to it. Usually it's a struggle to get myself back in the writing chair. Sometimes I use writing exercises like free-writing or following a character's stream of consciousness. I rarely map out my stories; I like to garden. Let the characters and story grow as I go along. Then go back afterwards, transplant, weed, and add some fertilizer where the growth is thin.

Well, I hope you harvest many stories that way, Brittni. How long did it take for you to start and finish The Patch Project?

From the original short story to the first draft of the novel was about two years. After the manuscript was rejected by a publisher, I put it away for awhile. When I went back to it in 2016, I did a full edit of the story and the following summer did three further rounds of editing with EDGE's house editor, the wonderful Heather Manuel. And here we are, a year later! Altogether, The Patch Project was about 6 years in the making!

Now that’s staying power! Do you have any advice for other writers, Brittni?

I don't know if I have any advice, but I would suggest finding writing friends. Having people to really talk to about writing has been invaluable to me. Plus, it's good to see that there's not just one way to be a writer. We all go about it differently, tell our stories in ways unique to us. And that's good! We all have so much to learn from each other.

Having a support system in this business is a must for sure. What’s next for Brittni Brinn the author?

Well, there's a sequel to The Patch Project in the works! (Hooray!) I'm also hoping to work on some collaborative film and graphic novel projects in the near future as well!

All the best with your future writing endeavors, Brittni! Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

Time travel is such a fascinating concept! Not too far back for me. The 1980s maybe? Could see some New Wave bands, have 80s hair, buy a walkman, it'd be fun.

About The Patch Project:

May and Isak live on what used to be Holly Street. But when a mysterious event wipes out most of the earth's surface, they find themselves the sole survivors of a once thriving neighbourhood. Another survivor, Ed, is stranded at a highway gas station. Pinot and Miller wander the wasteland, scrounging for supplies. Some of them have developed strange new abilities; some of them have experienced unthinkable loss. In this post-apocalyptic novella, each of them will have to come to terms with who they've become, and what they've done, in order to survive.

Book Info and Links:

You can find The Patch Project on Amazon.com, through EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, or locally at Juniper Books.

Meet the Author:

Brittni Brinn is a writer and playwright. She has a Masters degree in Creative Writing and Literature. Her interests include rocks kicked up by the ocean, books from friends, and comfortable sweaters. She currently lives in Windsor, along with her husband and two cats.

Connect with Brittni Brinn:

Instagram: @brittni_in_ink
Twitter: @brittni_in_ink

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Cover Reveal: Unreachable Skies by Karen McCreedy...



In a world where it is normal to fly, what happens when you can’t?

About Unreachable Skies:

When a plague kills half the Drax population, and leaves the hatchlings of the survivors with a terrible deformity – no wings – suspicion and prejudice follow. Continuously harassed by raids from their traditional enemies, the Koth, the Drax are looking for someone, or something, to blame.

Zarda, an apprentice Fate-seer, is new to her role and unsure of her own abilities; but the death of her teacher sees her summoned by the Drax Prime, Kalis, when his heir, Dru, emerges from his shell without wings.

A vision that Dru will one day defeat the Koth is enough to keep him and the other wingless hatchlings alive – for a time. Half-trained, clumsy, and full of self-doubt, Zarda must train Dru to one day fulfil the destiny she has foreseen for him, even if it is quickly becoming clear that the Prime’s favourite adviser, Fazak, is not only plotting against the wingless, but is gaining more of Kalis’ trust by the day.

Efforts to fight prejudice and superstition are certain to lead to death for some and exile for others; while Zarda’s own journey to understanding her role in events may lead her to abandon all tradition in order to protect her peoples’ future.


Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Adventure - This book is targeted toward a general audience.

Page Count: 242 pages

Publish Date: August 17, 2018 

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing 

Meet the Author:


Brought up in Staffordshire, England, Karen McCreedy now lives in West Sussex where she recently retired from the University of Chichester. She has written articles on films and British history for a number of British magazines including ‘Yours’, ‘Classic Television’, and ‘Best of British’. 

Karen has had a number of short stories published in various anthologies. She also won second prize in Writers’ News magazine’s ‘Comeuppance’ competition in 2014 with her short story ‘Hero’. 

‘Unreachable Skies’ is her first novel.






Monday, 16 July 2018

Guest Post: Elves - the Good, the Bad, and the Awesome by Carol Browne...

Photo Courtesy of Fun Photos Pixabay
When Elgiva, the protagonist of my fantasy novel The Exile of Elindel, is forced to seek the society of humans in order to survive the winter, she can only do this by adopting a disguise. Although mythology insists that elves are shapeshifters, I have Elgiva borrow magic instead so she can change her appearance. Why would she need to do this? In these modern times, we have friendly elves that help Santa; we have the innocuous Elf on the Shelf; we have glamorous immortal beings like the elves in "Lord of the Rings" that fascinate us with their pointed ears and otherworldly beauty. Why on earth would an elf feel compelled to hide their true nature?

Belief in elves as actual beings is as old as belief in the Norse gods. Indeed Freyr, one of the gods most widely and ardently venerated by the Norse and Germanic peoples, dwelled in Alfheim, the elves’ homeland. Germanic Mythology described three divine races: the Aesir, the Vanir and the Alfar (the elves). The origins of the Vanir and Alfar are cloaked in mystery and the relationship between the gods and the elves was ambiguous enough to permit a number of possible connections between Freyr and the elves.

Photo Courtesy of The Royalmen Pixabay
However, godlike or not, elves were often seen as mischievous and spiteful, if not downright dangerous, liable to lash out with magic if crossed. For example, the word 'stroke' for a sudden paralysing seizure is an abbreviation of 'fairy stroke' or 'elf stroke' and was supposed to come from being elf-shot, a blow which struck down an animal or human victim. Similarly, cramps were often the punishment for annoying the elven folk. The Anglo-Saxons recognized being elf-shot as a valid condition and thought it was caused by unseen elves firing invisible arrows at a person or animal, causing sudden shooting pains in a particular part of the body. And should a person’s hair become matted or knotted, he or she was said to be sporting elf-locks, that some unhelpful elf had tangled up. This was particularly said of the hair of sleeping children. And keep an eye on those children, for elves like to steal them!

Given their capricious and magical nature and supernatural origins, it is no wonder the Anglo-Saxons feared them. So Elgiva could not have strolled into a human settlement with impunity and was compelled to cloak herself in enchantment in order to pass as a human.

Scandinavian folklore boasts an abundance of elves, trolls and other mythological creatures. Most people in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden haven't taken any of them as fact since the 19th century, but it’s a different story in Iceland. Surveys taken there even in the present century revealed that more than half those surveyed believed in elves, while a number of major road construction projects have been halted, thanks to protestors concerned about the deleterious effects it would have on the habitat and culture of the resident elves.

Elves have been part of our folklore for a very long time. How we have interpreted them down the ages has varied tremendously. They originated as demi-gods, became malicious and belligerent, then friendly and industrious, and now they feature heavily in fiction and popular culture. They may be light elves. They may be dark elves. One thing is certain, good or bad, elves are always cool!

How about curling up with my epic fantasy while you contemplate the possibility of elves?

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

EXCERPT

The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.
Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.
She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.
She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.
It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.
After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.
She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.
“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!” 
Feel you.
A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.
A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.
Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”
A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”
“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.
“To see for myself.”
“To see what?”
The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.
Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.
“Stay!” commanded the creature.
It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.
“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”
The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”
It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.
Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.
Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .
With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Her non-fiction book is available at Dilliebooks.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Blog Takeover: Author Elizabeth Walker Grills Sharon Ledwith about her Writing Life…


With Elizabeth Walker, who is on my left.
I thought it would be fun to cut, paste, and edit an interview I had earlier this year with fellow author, Elizabeth Walker, to let my followers know what’s going on in my writing life and offering other interesting tidbits. Take it away, Elizabeth…

First off, would you like to tell a bit about yourself and your writing.

I’d be happy to, Elizabeth! So, I have a confession. Besides being a late bloomer as a writer (I started in my mid-thirties), I didn’t seek out writing for young adults as I primarily do now. Nope. I lurked in the deep pool of the supernatural romance genre before I ever considered dipping my toes into the welcoming waters of young adult fiction. The idea to write for the younger crowd actually came to me through a dream I had around 1998. In this dream, I saw seven arches, and there were seven people (five kids, two adults) with crystals in their hands, walking up to these arches. It definitely had an “Indiana Jones” feel to it. I really thought about that dream a lot to the point where an idea for a book began to grow, and take root. So, I thought I’d challenge myself and write a novel—a series—that would appeal to my son, who at the time was the target age of my audience. I’ve always loved the time travel genre, so I imagined the arches I saw vividly in my dream as time portals. Then, boom. The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis was born.

To say it’s been a long haul is an understatement. It’s been an uphill climb with peaks and valleys. I started gathering ideas and writing the first draft in 1999 before I signed a publishing contract with a now defunct publisher in September, 2011. Now, this was a back and forth project. During the twelve years before I signed a contract, I wrote a second book in The Last Timekeeper series, created and penned two novels for another young adult book series entitled Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, revised and edited my supernatural romance, took a writing correspondence course and various writing workshops, and worked at the local animal shelter. I finally returned to The Last Timekeeper and the Arch of Atlantis in 2010 to revise and polish it, and kept sending the manuscript out until I struck gold with a publishing contract offer. And even then, after all that, there were major revisions on changing my point of view over from five characters to one character. But I was determined, and did it. In early 2015, Mirror World Publishing, a local Windsor publishing company rescued my time travel adventure series, and the rest is history! Pun intended.

Do you have any new books coming out?

I sure do! The second book in my teen psychic mystery series, Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls will be released (tentatively) May 17, 2019. It’s entitled, Blackflies and Blueberries, and is about seventeen-year-old Hart Stewart who possesses psychometrythe psychic ability that discovers facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. In the first book in this series, Lost and Found, fifteen-year-old animal communicator Meagan Walsh is coerced into helping the shelter animals save their home before it’s too late.

You currently have two series, the Last Timekeepers and Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls. Do you have more books in store for both series? And – how do you write two series at once? Do you alternate writing one book for one series, and then go back to the other?

Definitely yes to the first question! I plan to have ten books, plus the prequel written for The Last Timekeepers time travel adventure series. I know, go big or stay home. Wink. Presently, I have Book #1, The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #2, The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, and the prequel, Legend of the Timekeepers published. I’m working on Book #3, The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, which should be out sometime in 2020.

I have five books planned for Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, starting with Book #1, Lost and Found published in June 2017. The next installment, Blackflies and Blueberries will hopefully be released May 17th, 2019, as mentioned above. All these books revolve around the same setting (Fairy Falls) with a different cast of characters with psychic powers for each book.

When writing two series at once, my plan is to release one book and write one book during the course of a year. So, yes I alternate writing the books for each series, which helps me produce fresh content every year and building both book series backlists at the same time. Trust me, I’m never bored with writing about the same characters, that’s for sure! 

Sharing my reading wares at the Windsor Comic Con
Do you enjoy being a writer in the Windsor region? What are the pros and the cons (if any!)?

Yes, very much! Comparing to where I used to live in the Huntsville area (seven hours drive north), Windsor has more opportunity for a writer and hosts a few writing groups to help writers improve their work for publication. Add in the fact that there’s the Windsor International Writers Conference here, and you’ve got a place that gives a writer plenty of chances to grow and learn. Though as a con, I’d have to say that it’s not a huge ‘arts’ oriented community, like Toronto. But we’re talking a different demography here. Windsor also boasts about seven publishing companies and over a thousand published/self-published authors. Not too shabby statistics for a city that’s known more for their manufacturing acumen. 

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Never stop investing in yourself. Invest in the best. That’s in yourself, and in your readers. Your readers deserve the best of what you have to offer them. Start building your author platform and brand early, even before you’re published. Surround yourself with the best possible team. Never stop learning. As you grow, so will your readers, so be prepared for this. Oh yeah, and never give up. That’s a given and should be part of any author’s credo. 

And – do you have anything else you would like to add?

Just a couple of things. I have a few freebies available on my website, so head over to my Home and Fun Stuff pages to find out what I’m offering! Oh, and if you live in the Windsor area and order any books through Mirror World Publishing’s Bookstore, delivery is FREE!

Thank you for grilling me on my blog today, Elizabeth. I appreciate your support and interviewing prowess. Wishing you all the best! Cheers!

Meet the Author/Interviewer:

Elizabeth J. M. Walker lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She has always loved books and writing. As a teen she discovered zines, which inspired her to publish her own litzine of odd fairy tales for over a decade. She Dreamed of Dragons is her first novel.

Connect with Elizabeth J.M. Walker:

Facebook: 

Goodreads Author Page:

Monday, 2 July 2018

YA Book Tour: Heartsong by Annie Douglass Lima...


Two alien worlds.
One teen emissary.
No reality she can trust.

Thirteen-year-old Liz Smith has been ripped away from one foster family after another for years, so the idea of a permanent home is tantalizing. Who cares if that home is a colony sixty-five thousand light-years from Earth? The friends in her trusty e-reader will keep her company just fine on her interstellar relocation.

But when the adventure of a lifetime turns into the disaster of the cosmos, Liz can only retreat so far into the books that have always sheltered her from loneliness and loss. Trapped in half-truths and secrets that leave her questioning reality, can one orphaned bookworm find a way to stop two races from destroying each other … and somehow write a happy ending to her own story?

If you like books about space travel, aliens, or cross-cultural transitions, you’ll love this poignant science fiction adventure. Click here to get your copy of Heartsong now and start the journey today! (Shh! For July 1st and 2nd only, the ebook is available for free!)

Read on for a sample of the story ...

Heartsong
Chapter One

My love of reading started the whole thing.
The best place to read on the Laika was in the lifeboats. I’d discovered that on the first leg of the trip, during the flight from Earth to the jump point off of Phoebe. I mean, what else was there to do when we couldn’t see much through the viewports? The view was exciting when there was one, but when you’re far away from anything, space all looks the same.
The hyperspace jump that shot us across the galaxy had been quick, of course, so no time to get bored there. And after we came out of it at the jump point off of Somav, the blue giant that would light my skies for the rest of my life, the flight toward the little moon Soma was pretty exciting, too. I couldn’t stop staring as we passed Somavia, the blue and white planet I knew none of us would ever see close up again. I wondered about the aliens whose home it was. What were they like? The pictures and video Forerunner had sent back, from the few passes it had taken in high orbit, left everyone with more questions than they answered.
Of course, we knew the planet had a breathable atmosphere. If it hadn’t been for the alien race who already lived there — and the tirtellium that we were going to mine on Soma, of course — New Horizons Industries might have decided to set up its colony on the planet Somavia instead of on its moon.
We passed Somavia three days ago, and we’d been orbiting Soma ever since. Which was also exciting, at first. I couldn’t wait to actually get down there and start life on my new home. A home I would get to help create, along with the adult scientists and miners and the rest of the Young Explorers. A home I would never be taken away from just when I was starting to settle in. My forever home. Normally I hated new beginnings, but this one was different. This would be the last new beginning of my life.
Even the colony’s name, chosen by the Samoan astronomer who discovered this solar system, was perfect. Avanoa, which apparently meant opportunity in the Samoan language, sounded to me like a kingdom from some fantasy novel.
Not that life in Avanoa was going to be a fantasy. I knew that starting a colony would be hard work, but that didn’t matter. A real home, with friends I would never have to say goodbye to, would be worth any amount of work.
Soma was interesting to look at, though not as pretty as the planet it orbited. The moon was mostly brown, with splotches of gray-green surrounding the dark blue dots that marked the location of its scattered lakes. With no actual oceans, the moon had just enough water to support a little plant and animal life. Nothing too dangerous, at least as far as we could tell from Forerunner’s pictures. Insects. Some fish and crustaceans that might or might not be edible. Small reptilian or maybe amphibian creatures that lived in and around the lakes. A handful of different mammals, all tiny, that made their homes in the hills. Nothing that seemed likely to bother two hundred human colonists setting up a new home on their world.
Of course, the aliens could be another story. We knew the Somavians had developed a limited form of space travel; we knew they had mines on Soma, too. But whatever they were mining for, it wasn’t tirtellium, and they only had a few tunnel mines in a few locations. We planned to set up our colony hundreds of kilometers away, where if all went according to plan, they wouldn’t even know we were around. Forerunner’s sensors had not detected any other artificial satellites in orbit around either Somavia or Soma, and as far as we could tell, the locals had no instruments capable of detecting Forerunner, no way to suspect we were coming. Its orbit was carefully programmed to keep it out of sight of any of their mines after dark, when it might be visible from the ground as a moving point of light.
The adults all said that hopefully we would never have to encounter any Somavians, but all of us kids hoped we would. I mean, why would anyone in their right mind not want to meet the first real live aliens actually confirmed to exist?
Jessie, who loved science fiction movies almost as much as I loved reading, had often kept Maria and Shaliqua and me awake late into the night back in our dorm room discussing all the possible alien-related adventures that awaited us if we ever made contact. Most of those possibilities were a lot more fun — though some were scarier — than the idea of living in isolation and never letting the locals know we were on their moon.
Anyway, judging by Forerunner’s footage, Somavian culture seemed peaceful, with no evidence of any wars going on down on their home world. If they did find out about the humans in their solar system, hopefully they wouldn’t mind us being there. We wouldn’t bother them, and with any luck, they wouldn’t bother us. And if they did get mad, well, the Laika had some weapons. Not enough to wage war with, but hopefully enough to convince them to leave us alone.
So much to wonder about. So much to look forward to. I could hardly wait to get down to the surface and start my new life. But here we all were, stuck in orbit for three whole days so far. Three painfully long and boring days. Earth days, that is. It had been nearly five Soman days, though we wouldn’t officially switch to using Soman time until we landed.
Atmospheric storms. Who would have thought that storms would be this big of an issue on a world with virtually no precipitation? Our science team had come up with a theory about minerals in the soil reflecting particles and wavelengths from the solar flares that Somav had been throwing out since our arrival. Whatever the case, the result was some pretty impressive windstorms in parts of the atmosphere. Since the spot picked out for Avanoa was directly underneath one of the worst storms, Captain Tyler insisted it wouldn’t be safe to try to land yet.
But no one had anticipated that the flares and storms would go on this long. At first, I was glad of the opportunity to orbit my new home and see what it looked like from space. But after a while the excitement faded, and everyone turned grouchy as we all grew more and more bored and impatient. The movies and games preloaded on our Horizon-brand tablets weren’t good enough to keep everyone happy, not while we had to put the adventure we’d all waited over a year to start on hold indefinitely. And I’d never been a big fan of video games or movies anyway.
So I did what I always do when real people get too annoying. I pulled out my old-school Novareader and turned to my true friends, the ones who never got annoying, who would always be there for me no matter what, who I never had to say goodbye to. And I escaped to the one place I had found on board where nobody would bother me or interrupt my adventures to ask what I was reading or exclaim over their new high score in who-cares-what-virtual-adventure on their RizeTab.
The Laika was designed to be taken apart when we arrived. Its decking and bulkheads would be used to help create Avanoa’s buildings until we could construct permanent residences from local rock, and that was one of the reasons the ship was so large. But big though it was, it had no extra empty space. Every compartment was full of freeze-dried food items, mining equipment, packages of seeds for genetically modified crops designed to grow well in the moon’s dry soil, and educational resources for us youth, because even on an interstellar adventure, there was no escaping school in some form.
So I had discovered in between Earth and Phoebe that the lifeboats were the best place to read. I wasn’t sure if I was really supposed to hang out in them, but they were unlocked, because after all, what would be the point in locking something that people would need to get into in a hurry in an emergency?
I sat curled up on a seat in Lifeboat 1, alternating between reading and looking out to see if anything interesting had come into sight down below. But from this angle, the one window — a wide viewport at the very front — was mostly full of stars, only a tiny sliver of Soma visible from one edge. I could have turned on the screen at the lifeboat’s navigational console and adjusted it to show me any view I liked, but that might trigger some sort of alert, and I didn’t want anyone showing up to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be in here.
So I joined Caz and her friends on their travels across the Granbo system, caught up in their space adventure on my Novareader screen, since my own space adventure had turned pretty dull. Lunch was another two hours away, so I might as well enjoy myself in the meantime.
And I did — until the ship vibrated more vigorously than usual and the fasten seatbelts sign flicked on.
I often felt as though several of me were debating inside my head. For a moment, Cautious Liz wondered if I should return to my seat. But what was the point? Practical Liz reminded me that I would be just as safe here in the lifeboat, and if the turbulence got bad, walking around with the Laika lurching under me would not be the smartest idea.
I already had my seatbelt on, since that was the best way to keep from floating around. Not that floating around wasn’t fun, but there was too little room in the lifeboat to do mid-air flips and spins without banging into things, and drifting around while I read made it hard to focus on the book. Of course my magnetic-soled shoes could have kept me anchored to the deck, but not when I wanted to sit cross-legged.
So I just tightened my seatbelt a little and turned back to The Gypsy Pearl. We had encountered turbulence lots of times in the last few days, thanks to the solar flares. It was no big deal.
But the vibrations grew stronger, and then the ship started lurching under me. I lowered my Novareader and looked around, but there was nothing to see here in the little lifeboat. The stars jumped and jerked outside the window, and if it hadn’t been for my seatbelt, I knew I would have been thrown about and probably injured already.
I waited for the crackle of the intercom and Captain Tyler’s voice to explain what was happening or issue instructions. But I heard nothing, and I wondered if the flares had damaged the lifeboat’s intercom system. They had interfered with the Laika’s electrical systems before, after all. Now I wished I’d returned to my seat while I could. If something dangerous was happening, I would rather face it with the others in the main cabin, where at least I would know what was going on.
Without warning, the lights flickered and then went out. Now that was a first. An instant later, an alarm screeched, making me jump. I gasped, really worried for the first time since we left Earth. The screeching continued as the stars swirled and zigzagged, sending faint but frightening shadows thrashing around me like alien spirits trying to take over the ship. For a second I wondered if that could actually be happening. Maybe the Somavians had powers we didn’t know about. Maybe they were trying to drive us out of their system … or worse.
Then the emergency lights embedded in the deck glowed to life, and I let out my breath in relief. The navigational computer two rows ahead of me powered on automatically, its screen lighting up green.
My relief was short-lived, though. The alarm kept blaring its intermittent warning. Screech! Silence. Screech! Silence. Screech! The turbulence was worse than ever, as though the Laika was a wild horse, bucking and leaping and trying to throw its rider off. And that rider gripped the edge of her seat all alone there in the lifeboat, wondering what in the universe was happening.
Suddenly the whirling stars vanished and Soma swung into view, filling the viewport ahead of me, a blur of brown-blue-gray-green-brown. I barely had time to notice before it was gone and the streaking stars reappeared. Then the moon appeared again.
My stomach was spinning as fast as the ship. Thank goodness I had inherited the Smith Stomach of Steel, or my breakfast would probably have ended up all around me. I could only imagine what a nasty experience that would be in zero gravity with the ship thrashing around like this.
A new noise caught my attention. A mechanical noise, a series of clicks and clinks and the sliding of metal against metal. I had only ever heard it before in simulations, but I recognized it right away, and my heart lurched in terror. “No!”
Words flashed across the computer screen, large enough to read from where I sat. LIFEBOAT LAUNCHING.
“No! I yelled again. I fumbled for the seatbelt clasp and flung myself across the tiny cabin, lunging for the manual override button beside the door. Not a smart move, I have to admit, considering how wildly everything was jerking around me. But I panicked. Can you blame me? None of our training, none of the simulations, had dealt with what to do if the lifeboat you were sitting in alone accidentally detached from the ship.
I knew what to do if a lifeboat didn’t detach when it was supposed to. I knew which lifeboat I was supposed to board in an emergency. Not this one, though they were all the same. I knew who my lifeboat buddies would be — a fairly even cross-section of the ship’s crew in terms of age and abilities, so we would have the best possible chance of survival in case not every lifeboat made it. I knew how to steer the lifeboat and bring it down for a controlled landing, even though I wasn’t the assigned helmsperson in my group. We had all learned all those skills, just in case.
But I didn’t know how to survive in deep space or on Soma’s surface on my own. The cupboards contained emergency rations and survival gear, of course, but not enough to live off of indefinitely. Of course the lifeboat would emit a signal that the ship’s sensors would pick up — I knew they were picking it up already, as of the moment my craft started to detach — but what if no one could come and get me right away? What if I landed on Soma, but the Laika couldn’t land for days or even weeks? They would have no way to rescue a stranded teenager who shouldn’t have been reading in a lifeboat in the first place.
And what if the aliens found me before my people did?
All that went swirling through my brain within a couple of seconds as I slammed my fist into the manual override button again and again. But nothing happened. That is, the hatch didn’t open to let me out into the ship’s corridor. But the incessant alarm finally went silent, and the frantic jerking and thrashing stopped, replaced by a slow, gentle twirl.
For a second, Optimistic Liz dared to hope that the trouble was over. But I knew that wasn’t it.
The lifeboat was no longer connected to the ship.
Too horrified even to yell again, I watched the Laika drift past the window, Somav’s light tinting her silver-white hull a metallic frostbite-blue against the blackness of space. She was still spinning and dancing like some huge bird as the solar flares played havoc with her electrical systems. And then I saw only stars, and then the mottled brown of the moon, then more stars. And then there went the Laika once more, further away this time.
Grabbing the back of a seat for leverage, I shoved off from the deck, thankful for the zero-gravity training. Floating was faster than clomping along in magnetic shoes, and I had to get to the controls now. I had to steer myself back to the ship.
But as I seized the arm of the helmsperson’s chair and maneuvered my body into it, I realized I had no idea how to reattach a lifeboat to its socket on the ship’s side. They had never taught us that. Were lifeboats even designed to reattach once they were separated?
Well, somebody must know the proper procedure for this kind of emergency. Captain Tyler or one of the other adults could talk me through the process. Right?
I fumbled for the seatbelt, twisting my ankles around the legs of the chair so I wouldn’t float off in the meantime. Jabbing the intercom button, I called, “Help! I’m in a lifeboat that just detached! What do I do?”
Realizing how panicked and little-girly I sounded, I took a deep breath and tried again. “I mean, this is Liz Smith on Lifeboat 1, calling anybody on the Laika who can hear me. Come in, please.”
There was no response, and I realized that the communication light wasn’t even on. The intercom was offline.
Great. Dang solar flares.
I took another deep breath. I had never felt so alone.
But the controls in front of me looked exactly like the ones in the simulator. I could do this. It would be just the same as I had practiced.
Except this was no game, where the only real struggle was to beat my classmates, to be the first to land my virtual lifeboat safely.
This was a real emergency.
This was my life at stake.

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About the Author:

Annie 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 eighteen books in a wide variety of genres (science fiction, fantasy, YA action and adventure novels, a puppet script, anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.