Please welcome a guest to Vala Kaye’s “Other World” today, sci-fi author Tom Olbert! ~ Vala

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Speaking as a writer who primarily works in science fiction, I am painfully aware that the genre holds extremely limited appeal for the public. The genre has dropped out of popularity. Most of the general public doesn’t take SF seriously. Kid stuff, they assume.

Maybe it started out that way, but the genre is evolving. The science fiction that has won current popularity in books and their big screen adaptations is the sub-genre we call post-apocalyptic science fiction (PASF). Stories that offer tortured young heroes and heroines struggling to find their purpose in dark, dystopian future worlds run by cold, duplicitous adults. And, if aimed and written properly, science fiction can be an excellent canvass for expressing such social themes and depicting characters who thrive in them, because it has no set limits or boundaries.

The writer creates the world that is needed to illustrate the point and to channel the development of the protagonist. The challenge is in making that world seem relevant to an audience that tends to be skeptical of the genre. To be taken seriously, SF has to escape the stigma of glitz and gadgetry and offer stories that are actually character-centered. The setting must frame and present the character, not just use the character to present itself.

One particularly dark and stinging PASF franchise is the CW’s “100” T.V. series, set in a post-war irradiated wilderness grown over the ruins of Washington D.C. Based on the Alloy books by Kass Morgan. A century after a nuclear war, the last survivors of humanity (or, so they think) live under harsh Draconian rule on an orbiting space colony beset by rapidly dwindling resources. They send a hundred of their incarcerated juvenile delinquents down to the surface to find out if it’s habitable. Turns out it is, but already inhabited, by two other groups of survivors. Warlike, savage tribes who live in the forests, and a technologically advanced but isolated society that’s lived inside a mountain bunker for the past 97 years.

Character development is strong and intense, weaving through dark themes of society-building, tribalism, leadership dynamic, and such timeless moral themes as justice, capital punishment, and war. It’s a raw, gritty look at human nature in its purest form, and it spares us nothing. Its strength is definitely in its lead characters. Most notably Clarke, the teenaged daughter of the space colony’s chief medical officer (a mother who betrayed Clarke’s father to execution at the hands of the regime, justifying it for the greater good.)

Thrust into circumstances beyond her control, Clarke reveals natural leadership ability and swiftly rises to power in her group. She soon has to face wrenching moral decisions that seem to echo the dark days of World War II. When the outwardly civilized, seemingly cordial mountain people start performing horrific Mengele-like experiments on the outsiders, draining their bone marrow in hopes of gaining their immunity to the radiation, Clarke must form an uneasy alliance with the savages to save her people. Clarke learns of an impending missile attack from the mountain through a spy she has on the inside, but decides not to warn her people about it, knowing it would tip off the enemy, robbing her side of the critical advantage. She must live with the guilt of her decision as dozens of her friends die a horrible fiery death while she gets herself to safety. A plot-point obviously alluding to Winston Churchill’s alleged similar decision at Coventry. When Clarke’s ally makes her own deal with the enemy, selling Clarke out to save her own people, Clarke must throw away the rule book to save her friends. She takes hostages and personally executes a prisoner just to make a point. When the enemy leader still won’t release her people, she makes the deliberate decision to commit genocide. Her hand pauses dramatically over the switch only a moment before she presses it, releasing deadly radiation into a bunker full of people, including innocent children and conscientious objectors who tried to help her people. The resulting nightmare scene of pleasant, family oriented cafeteria dining dissolving into excruciating death, bodies blistering from the radiation, women and children dying, conjures shades of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I tried to be one of the good guys,” Clarke later tells her mother. “Maybe, there are no good guys, Clarke,” mom replies. It’s not that everyone is out for number one, you understand. They’re all just doing their best to save their own people. Which is, of course worse. The story is a dark mirror of the world in which we live, but the characters have more life than that. We care about them, and they bring the dark lessons to life for us because their pain and conflict and love and hate for each other are potent.

In my SF novella “Black Goddess,” I combined theoretical quantum physics with the dark yearnings of a morally conflicted Gulf War vet who has lost his faith and becomes obsessed with finding the core of darkness at the beginning of time. The story deals with the real-life agony of torture and what it does to the soul, and asks the timeless questions of whether primal evil truly exists, if life is anything but blind chance, and if there is a God. At its core is a simple yearning for love.

Quote:
“Beneath her black head scarf, her dark eyes stabbed through him with a flaming hatred. Then…nothing. Like a black abyss where a soul had been a micro-second before. A strange kind of peace. More than that, a oneness.

That look in her eyes. In his dad’s. It was the same as he’d seen in Lark’s memory…in the eyes of that kid in Uganda who’d held a knife to her throat. But, he hadn’t harmed her. Something had stopped him. When their eyes had met…something in her had pulled him back from the abyss.”

To read more on Black Goddess please click a vendor’s name
Mocha Memoirs PressAmazon

Tom Olbert lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts; cradle of the American Revolution, and home of University egg heads and kooky liberals. He loves it there. His work has most recently appeared in Musa Publishing. Previously in Mocha Memoirs Press, Eternal Press, and such anthologies as Ruthless, Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous, Something Wicked Vol II, In the Bloodstream, and Torched.

When he’s not working or writing sci-fi or horror, Tom volunteers for causes he cares about. He comes from a most interesting family; his mother, Norma Olbert is currently self-publishing a biography of the life of Tom’s dad Stan Olbert, a retired MIT physicist and veteran of the Polish underground during WWII. Tom’s sister Elizabeth Olbert is an artist, art teacher, and avid lover of horses.

Learn more about Tom Olbert on his blog Other Dimensions.

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I just finished reading a wonderfully fun YA/NA time travel story, Wishing You Were Here, by author Catherine Chant.

Callie Reinard, a 21st century Boston teen, has just graduated from high school and is looking forward to college and an exciting career in radio. So how is it that she finds herself thrown back in time to 1957 and to London’s Heathrow Airport, trying to stop the tragic death of ’50’s Rock’n’Roll heartthrob, Joey Tempo?

After Callie succeeds in keeping Joey off that doomed plane, she thinks her job is done and that she’ll be returned to her own time. But things aren’t that easy and Fate, it seems, has other plans for Callie and the cute and talented Joey. Oh…and did I forget to mention that Joey’s already engaged to a small-town beauty queen who’s none too happy when Callie sticks around?

I really enjoyed Callie agonizing over whether she should stay in 1957 with Joey, knowing that he’s seriously unavailable. Or should she try to return to the present. And how exactly is she supposed to do that, anyway?

I recently talked to the author herself, Catherine Chant, and she was kind enough to give me some insight into Callie, Joey…and ’50’s Rock’n’Roll.

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Catherine ChantWelcome, Cathy, and thanks for checking in with us today!

I’m so excited to be here! Thank you for having me.

So, please share with readers…why a time travel story?

Easy answer: it’s what popped into my head first. 🙂

Longer answer: A song I liked prompted me to look into the history of a popular 1950’s musician, and when I learned that he died at age 20, I found myself asking, “What if he hadn’t died so young?”  My imagination took over from there. Time travel seemed the logical way to bring someone dead back to life.

Later on I realized there was more to it. I love the idea of the “do over,” the chance to fix past mistakes, or right a wrong, and it’s a theme that ran through several of my works-in-progress before I started WISHING YOU WERE HERE. Time travel is the perfect mechanism for the ultimate “do over.”

You’re certainly far too young to have any personal memories of the 1950’s. What was it about that decade and its music that made you choose them as the setting for this story?

Ever since I was little, I’ve always loved the 50s and 60s. My parents had lots of music from that era that influenced me, and there were always old movies on TV when I was growing up–Elvis movies, Annette and Frankie movies, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. I loved them all.

Then of course, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley came on the scene when I was in junior high. The shows naturally made my parents nostalgic for their high school days (they strongly identified with the characters and situations on the show) and they were excited to share their memories with us kids. My curiosity took over. I’d look through my parents’ yearbooks and memorabilia. trying to get a sense of what it was really like to live back then.

In addition, both my sets of grandparents still lived in the houses where my parents grew up, so it was easy to picture myself back in time when I visited. I loved looking at old photos, especially when I’d recognize things like the same garage or a piece of furniture we were sitting on. Seeing familiar items in these photos brought the past and present together for me.

I’ve never lost that fascination. I love looking at photography books where the artist shows a city square 50-100 years ago and then the same spot/same angle in the present day so you can compare them.

Tell us, if you would, a bit more about Callie and Joey…are they based on any real people from the ’50’s? Or are they a mixture of people you’ve known personally?

Joey Tempo was initially inspired by the late, great Eddie Cochran, but he’s really a combination of a lot of 50’s/60’s performers who left us far too soon.

Callie Reinard evolved over the course of writing the book into her own unique person. The fascination with old music was probably inspired by my own interests at the time, but her ambition and determination for a career in radio grew from scenes unfolding in the book.

What are you working on now, or what’s your next project? And do you have other books available that readers can check out right now?

I’m working on Book 2 in the Soul Mates series, NOTHING STAYS THE SAME. This time around Callie’s younger sister Leah travels back in time to 1973 to find herself the star of Hollywood’s latest pop music sitcom. I’m also working on a new young adult suspense novel.

Other books that are available now include:

LOST WITHOUT YOU–a sequel novella that comes between Book 1 and Book 2 in the Soul Mates series. It picks up where events left off back in 1957 the end of Book 1, and follows one of the major secondary characters as she finds her happily-ever-after.

Two Vampire Diaries novellas–PURSUED BY EVIL and EVIL AFTER MIDNIGHT. I thought after the whole Damon-Elena thing came to be at the end of Season 4, Stefan deserved his own happy ending, so I gave him a new love interest. Unfortunately, she doesn’t come without a price.

Details can be found here on my Amazon Author page

Thanks again, for stopping by, Cathy. I assume you enjoy hearing from readers anytime? If so, I’ll include links below where readers can connect with you via your site and on social media, and sign up for your newsletter.

Thanks for inviting me! And, oh yes, I love to hear from readers!!!!

You can find me online at my website (where you can sign up for my newsletter – newsletter subscribers hear everything first and are eligible for freebies, sneak peeks and other fun things!) Of course, I’m also on Facebook and on Twitter.

Cherish12-1-2013-Front-400

 

It’s the sophomore Local History cemetery visit. Sure, it’s almost Halloween, but Kayla has seen that teenage ghost for years. Why won’t she leave? When the dreamy senior asks Kayla for a date, she decides to prove to herself that she’s mature and in charge. She’ll tell that ghost to go away. But Kayla shouldn’t have touched the ghost’s cold hand because that’s when everything changed.

Suddenly, it’s 1946, or is Kayla dreaming? Is she crazy? Why is her name Cherish? Why is her mother at home baking cookies when she should be at work? And, she has a father? Didn’t he die years ago? Why is her best friend Trudy instead of Dani? And the thing in her pocket is not a compact with a bad mirror. DON’T TRY TO OPEN IT!

Text messages do travel across the years, judging from those on her cell phone. But why is Dani mad at her? She isn’t there, is she? It can’t be, but it must. Someone is taking Kayla’s place in the twenty-first century. Who?

Fact: Cherish is ruining her life in two centuries. If Kayla doesn’t find her way home to her own time and her own body, she will die in 1946 with Cherish.

Cherish (A YA Ghost Mystery) is now available as a paperback and e-book for Kindle. Buy the paperback and download the e-book for free!

AMAZON

About the author:

Norma_Huss_author

Norma Huss calls herself “The Grandma Moses of Mystery.” Cherish is her first book for young adults—for her grandchildren, of course. (She freely admits this book required a lot of help from the younger generation when it came to current technology. She handled the 1946 concepts herself.)

Her adult mysteries, Yesterday’s Body and Death of a Hot Chick are set on the Chesapeake Bay where she and her husband sailed for many years. Her non-fiction, A Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska, was taken from her father’s exploits as a nineteen-year-old college student looking to earn money.

“When I first started writing,” Norma says, “I wrote for children and young adults, submitting to magazines, and finally having quite a few published in popular magazines. I moved on to novels for the same age groups, but none sold. As my children were outgrowing those markets, I switched to my market—mysteries. But, I did have a few YA plots that had gotten nibbles from major publishers. I decided to update one before my grandchildren got too old to enjoy it.

However, after updating Cherish, the only part of the original that remained was the name Cherish for a teen from the past, her desire for an automobile of her own, and the number and sex of the other characters. The original had no ghost, just bones. Even the historic time changed, moving from the 1930s to the 1940s. (I did want someone still living who remembered Cherish.) And 1946 fit in quite nicely for two reasons—I could remember it, and the news from that year contributed to the story.

Early readers have mentioned mother-daughter reads, and that this one is more like a grandmother-granddaughter read. Actually, some of the scenes are contributed by one of the young men in the story, so grandsons may like it too (although that may be pushing it).”

Norma’s Website  Norma’s blog  Goodreads  Facebook  Twitter

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Click on the cover to the right to download the ebook for Kindle or a Kindle app for only 99 cents! (Or order a print copy from Amazon.com for $5.99.)

Have a Nook or don’t shop at Amazon? No worries! The ebook and print book is also available here from B&N.com and the ebook can be found at Smashwords.

LASR (Long and Short Reviews) YA reviewer “Snapdragon” totally got the meaning of Ghost Writer, and gave it 4 stars.

“Ghost Writer is an unpredictable story with a nice little mystery wrapped around a sense of empathy – a sense that will try to stretch across centuries. I’d have to call this novella the perfect Halloween present: A real indulgence with no calories!”

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Just click on the cover to download the e-book for Kindle or a Kindle app or to order a print copy from Amazon.com.

The e-book is also available here from B&N.com and from Smashwords.

It’s never too early to get into the Halloween spirit! (No pun intended there, honestly!)

Featured post

My amazing and prolific critique partner, Nancy Lindley-Gauthier, shares By Starlight, an MG/YA mystery with a sprinkling of paranormal and a light touch of teen romance.

Here’s a bit about By Starlight:

by starlight

Kitsai “Kit” Dennis is driven by desperation: her best online friend Gracie has gone missing!

Determined to locate Gracie, Kit finagles a job at a summer camp near Gracie’s home in rural British Columbia, Canada. Evening campfires, wildlife, mountains and rivers form the backdr

op as Kit sets out to search all her friend’s favorite places.

Kit suffers doubts so she turns to some of the Native American teachings practiced in the area to help her develop a focus in her search. Determined to be a true and loyal friend, she winds up in dangerous situations far outside her comfort zone, forcing her to admit more about herself than she really wants to know.

Although not a thriller, there are many ‘thrilling’ moments in By Starlight, a YA ‘adventure’ mystery.

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By Starlight is available now as an e-book from:

Desert Breeze Publishing

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Check out Nancy’s latest releases on her site: https://nlindleygauthier.wordpress.com/

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