Book Review: The Timekeepers’ War

81C6jQyqOVL._SL1500_The Timekeepers War is the debut novel of Saskatchewan based writer, S.C. Jensen, but you wouldn’t know it. Skillfully written and edited, there is no hint that this book is written by anyone other than an author at the top of their game.

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We are taken to a disconnected and post apocalyptic world, some hundreds of years into the future. There, people like the protagonist, Ghost, scrabble a hand-to-mouth existence amongst the ruins of the City, living in fear of one another, and of the burning rays of the Sun. Some have moved underground entirely, and these scenes did have resonances with Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ for me.

Unknown to many of the City’s inhabitants, others, considering themselves an elite, moved up, into a guarded luxury undreamt of by those below. This is the Elysian Empire: a dictatorship, run by the tyrannical Ursaar.
The Elysian Empire is a skilful and nightmarish blend of the worst of all worlds – think of Nero’s Rome with unbridled genetic engineering, and you’ll have something of the flavour of it. Psychologists would delight in picking apart the various conditions of the Ursaar, who is plagued by paranoia, megalomania, and best of all, a substitute Oedipal complex.

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It is hard to write about this book without including too many spoilers, but I can say that Jensen has created a believable and complex world, peopled by strong characters. Many of them are not beauties, either physically or morally, just as most of us are not in real life. One thing I did love was the way that the book avoided painting anyone as entirely black or white – no-one is an angel, and motivations are mixed and sometimes obscure, again, truly reflecting society. Written as the first part of a series of books, you are often left wondering what people’s real aims are, and I’m sure that will provide ample fodder for the next books.

In the same vein, it was refreshing to have a kick-ass heroine who is strong, and can look after herself, and yet acknowledge that she has doubts and fears just like everyone else. Ghost is no superhero, but perhaps a woman steeled by the hardships of her existence.

There is plenty of action, guerrilla warfare, and even spirituality in The Timekeepers War, which will lead you through a rich world of secret societies, secret passages, steamy townships and impossibly rich gilded imperial gardens. A lengthy but necessary section of explanation and back story in the middle of the book is kept flowing well with intrigues and a deepening of the relationship between the main characters, Ghost and the mysterious Lynch.

Overall, The Timekeepers War is a highly accessible book, which deserved to be widely read. It would make a fine film, and I look forward eagerly to the sequel.

Five stars from me.

five-stars

 

 

I received a free ebook of The Timekeepers War, in return for an honest review.

Fashion Friday – Guest Post

Today, I’m guest posting at the excellent and varied Sappho’s Torque blog, which is written by author Angelique Jamail. Angelique has recently released her first novel Finis, so I’m delighted that she has taken time out of her busy schedule to host something from me.

Somewhat out of the usual cast of posts here, I’m writing about my take on Fashion, so please do pop by and feel free to cast mud at my opinions (or cheer them on, alternatively, and much more pleasantly!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Thanks!

Book Launch!

On Sunday the 23rd of March, we had a joyful celebration of the Launch of ‘The Milk of Female Kindness – an Anthology of Honest Motherhood.’

Somewhat ironically, the launch was held at Abbottsford Convent, which still seems to have the aura of nun’s ghosts floating down the corridors. Despite this, it really was a fantastic way to finish a project, if you can ever call a project like this finished. The energy of having all those supportive people in one place – estimates say that we had about a hundred attendees – really can’t be beaten. I was on a high all day. 🙂

I confess that I did umm and ahh about whether or not to have a launch, as it’s a lot of extra time, effort and cash to organise. I don’t think I would have done it if the fabulous Dr. Carla Pascoe (who has a bub even smaller than mine – and mine is only 17 months) hadn’t stepped in to give me a hand, especially as I am a book launch virgin.

Our Book launch was perhaps a little unusual. Bearing in mind that many of those attending would have small children, we thought it best not to have a boozy affair at a sleek bookshop, although that would have been fun. Instead, our venue opened out on to a green courtyard, and we were blessed to have Judy McKinty facilitating play, and the talented Richard Morden helping with Colouring-in. There was even fairy bread, although how much was consumed by adults on the quiet I cannot say.

The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest MotherhoodHeather Harris, one of the contributors to the book, and also a midwife with Medecins Sans Frontiers, spoke eloquently about how the cover of the book represented women form around the world spitting the dummy, and refusing to be silenced about our experiences, despite the societal pressure to fit us into neat little molds. I also wittered on about something or other – its’ all a bit of a blur…

 

Anyway, thank you to everyone who came along, and to all the wonderful people who helped out along the way!

A once in a lifetime experience.

 

Cover reveal! Milk of Female Kindness

Finally, I can reveal to the world the face of all our hard work over the last year! Drum roll please….

Here is the cover of our anthology of honest stories about motherhood – ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’.

MOFK COVER front final

The Anthology is a collection of the work of twenty-eight women from around the world, who have been brave enough to write honestly about their experiences of motherhood. I’d like to extend my most sincere thanks to all the contributors. It has been an honour working with such an inspiring group of people! 🙂

Unlike most other books on the subject, we have a creative focus – there is artwork, poetry, short fiction, essays and interviews.

The collection is deliberately diverse, in all senses. All stages of motherhood are reflected, and really the aim is to broaden the range of stories out there, and allow women to think for themselves what it means to be a mother, rather than relying on the shallow and market focused roles that the media might like to push us into. You may disagree with some of the work: others pieces will resonate with you. Whatever happens, it will make you think more deeply about being a parent.

The book will be released in paperback first, with e-book to follow soon after. Stay tuned for developments!

Matter of Opinion

I’m back at work now, which is odd. It’s rather like everyone has been in stasis for the year while so many things have changed in my own life.

There is one person who had some news for me though – he and his partner will be expecting a baby about the same time that my lad turns one. We had a chat about it over lunch one day, as even though he’s already a father, it’s been a long time since he had a baby around. And I’m embarrassed to say that I ended up giving him a bit of an ear bashing. Probably not guaranteed to win friends and influence people when you’re newly back into the fold.

What got me going was his attitude to having a baby. He started spouting opinions like “I think women who don’t breastfeed are just bottle feeding for their own convenience,” and “I don’t believe in sending a child to be cared for by strangers.” He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, and to express his thoughts about raising his own child,  but what got my back up is that both these positions cannot help but have serious implications for his partner, unless she tells him to go jump. If she shares them – fine. It seemed to me that he was making decisions for her which would affect her body, identity and career, and that’s not on in my book.

So I told him what I thought, and knew from other mothers I’d been speaking to. At length, although thankfully not at volume as I’m pretty quiet.

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m not always forcing my own ideas down other people’s throats, and I sincerely hope that he didn’t take it in that spirit. That said, when I was about nine, a woman came to the house to ask my mother’s opinions about development of our area. I had thoughts of my own, and let her know them. As she left, she said to my mother, “She’s very…articulate, isn’t she?” Mum decoded this euphemism to mean that I was highly opinionated.

Which leads me to ponder the different books I’ve worked on. My novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’, and the short story collection I’m working on are just fun for me. They’re escapism – a telling of the tales which bubble up in my head. But the Anthology, ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ is different. It’s an honest account of motherhood – sharing the real story, from real women. Someone commented on this blog recently that there are strong parallels between my novel and the anthology, in that they both deal with some of the same issues. This is true, but more of a coincidence than anything else.

The Anthology is where my passionate, opinionated nature erupts forth. I am, as the lady years ago noted, at my most articulate when moved by a subject I care deeply about. It’s a very good thing that there are so many other women involved in ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’, as otherwise it could become my personal rant, and as I’m pretty new to this whole motherhood thing, that could end up being spectacularly ill-informed! It is deliberately diverse, so that we can all have a rant! 🙂

Hopefully, hearing the stories and opinions of so many different people will allow people reading the book to make up their own minds. It’s a complicated and often ambiguous area, and no-one should have to have a single person’s views forced upon them. Fingers crossed, the partner of my workmate will be thinking for herself.

Artist profile: Judith Logan Farias

Copyright Judith Logan-Farias

Copyright Judith Logan-Farias

If you’ve dipped into this blog before, you’ll know that one of my projects at the moment is an Anthology about Honest Motherhood. That is, the real thing as experienced by ‘ordinary’ women in all its diversity and complexity, rather than the bland, white bread, buy-this-and-it-will-make-you-happy version. I’ve been immensely lucky to have had contributions from a great collection of women from around the world, and I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to a few of them.

Judith Logan Farias is an artist based in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, although she spent nine years living in Chile. An artist and illustrator, she works in various media, in a style that has been described as a mix of naive, figurative and semi-abstract. She is inspired by Nature, pattern, colour and designs, and loves to sketch from life when her three young children will permit her to! She not only produces beautiful prints and artwork, but has also done book illustrations and even an album cover!

While the female figure and nature are typical themes in her art, the struggle between her love for two countries and a sense of belonging is also sometimes present.

Judith says, “If I can be surrounded by nature, walk for miles and still have a coffee with a sketchbook or a good read, then that`s all I need to be happy, although if there were more than 24 hours in a day, I`d be even happier….”

She is one of our contributing artists for the project, having done a fabulous pen and ink drawing. If you check out her blog or Facebook page, you will see the sort of work she does, and why I’m so honoured to have her art in our Anthology!

If you have a story to tell, or artwork which expresses your experience of motherhood, please feel free to get in touch with me. Love to hear from you!

A different WIP

For the last few months, I’ve been a busy bod. Not only have I been looking after my tiny son, designing gardens and trying to keep myself sane and fed, but I’ve also had two writing works in progress.

One of them is my short story collection, which I have mentioned fleetingly on this blog, and which is well underway. Like my novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’, it is loosely defined as science fiction, but with more stories leaning perhaps more towards the quirky than traditional scifi. No doubt I’ll blog about it more as it develops and grows.

The other is a project which doesn’t really fit into the loose themes I’ve established in this blog, which is why I haven’t chatted about it before. However, it is really stretching me as a writer and so that journey could be worth discussing.

The new work is an anthology, bringing together many talented writers and artists. In a complete departure from my other work, all the pieces will be discussing motherhood, in its glorious complexity and with frightening honesty. The journey started when I became a mum, and found that it’s a relationship that is dealt with very shallowly in popular media. Now that I have a baby, apparently I am only now interested in nappies, shopping and my post baby body. Other women I have discussed this with tell me that the conversation doesn’t really improve as our children grow.

The more I started to look into it, the angrier I became. The density of information which descends, most of it unsubstantiated, seems calculated to bewilder and pressure mothers. That the best role model we can aspire to is apparently a ‘yummy mummy’ I find patronising and frankly rather offensive. The genuinely complex feelings we have around raising children are sometimes blanketed by a sentimentality which stifles a real discussion.

So – we’re trying to put together an alternative viewpoint. I’m gathering work from women with a whole range of different experiences, from all stages of the motherhood. There will the essays, artwork, poetry and interviews.

I’m learning lots of new skills, and it looks like it will be a hell of a ride, rather like motherhood itself, but both will no doubt be eventful journeys!

Celebrating Womanhood event

Hosted by Living, Learning, and Loving Life, Cabin Goddess, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave, Tea With Dee, and alchemyofscrawl.

September 16th is a day when bloggers come together to celebrate womanhood. If you jump on to one of the host sites above, you should find links to a wealth of other bloggers also discussing this topic, each in their own way.

I know so many amazing women. They are my friends, my family, people I work with and for. They are resourceful, determined, energetic, creative, witty and resilient. One of them built a business while raising children, and managed to cycle to the base camp of Everest. Another opted to stay at home while she was a mum, and is not only the best read person I know, but an accomplished sculptor. Others have overcome the shadow of cancer to get pHDs, renovate houses and paint beautifully.

Despite all this, not one of these women is free of the insecurities which plague us all from time to time. Being a woman can be hard. Despite the examples of women we actually see in our lives everyday, instead of acknowledging their strength, independence and wit, somehow we are still swayed by the negative portrayal of women in the media.

Yes, advertising industry, I’m looking at you. Yes, women’s magazines, at you too. I’ve been much more content since I completely stopped reading these magazines, not that I was ever a great fan. The content seems quite calculated to make sure that we don’t measure up: not thin enough, young enough, pretty enough or fit enough.  The honest truth is that the advertising and publications which make you feel insecure are doing it quite deliberately. Their business is not necessarily to make you feel like you’re a competent human being: their business is to encourage you to keep buying, either their magazine, or whatever product they are selling.

In light of all this pressure, I feel it’s particularly important for women to have some positive reinforcement from other sources. Of course our family, friends and work colleagues cannot be underestimated in this role. However, the books we read can also help.

I’ve read some discussion about how we have a responsibility to have good female characters in our books to hold up the feminist cause. While I don’t dispute the end, I do dispute that they should be in there just for that purpose. We should be writing strong female characters because they are more interesting, involving people to populate our work. The Bechdel test states that a novel is only not sexist if it:

a) Has two named female characters, who

b) Have a conversation with each other, which is

c) Not about men.

Doesn’t seem all that demanding a criteria, does it? But if you think through your favourite books, it is surprising how many don’t even come up to this low benchmark.

Much has been written and said about the lack of good female characters in science fiction. I think that this is starting to be remedied by authors of both sexes, and that is a very positive thing. Many of the ‘greats’ of science fiction were men writing in the 50’s and 60’s, and their vision into the future, while technologically brilliant, did not always extend to social vision. Very often, despite being set in the distant future, the women characters (if there are any), are not much more than 50’s housewives in a silver dresses.

I don’t wish to smear these stories simply for that fact. They are of their time. If any of you have read Ian Fleming’s books on which the James Bond movies have been based, you may have been surprised by the extent of racism and sexism which is taken completely for granted. That doesn’t stop them from being great adventure stories: just of their time and place.

In my novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’, and also in my short stories (particularly ‘Perpendicularly’), I have tried to write about real women. They are strong, capable, intelligent people, and this is not due to some feminist plot on my part, but because that is how I find most women to be. To be believable characters, they needed to be powerful, and yet still sometimes subject to their insecurities.

There is certainly a place for female superheroes – real kick-ass women with no self doubt – in literature as well. Kerry Greenwood wrote her 1920’s detective, Phryne Fisher as a female equivalent of James Bond, and what fun she is to follow on her romps through the very proper society of the time! Perhaps if there were more role models like Phryne, less of us would look to Jordan and Pamela Anderson as role models (although you’ve got to give it to Ms. Anderson for the tongue in cheek courage she had to participate in Stripperella.)

So as writers, as a bare minimum, let’s be of our time and place. Let’s write about the real women we see around us, in all their strength and resilience, rather than as the downtrodden beings that the media would like us to be. Let’s celebrate real womanhood.

Luna Station Quarterly

I’m very proud and excited to announce that Luna Station Quarterly have just published one of my short stories in their latest edition!

If they have managed to pass you by, Luna Station Quarterly is focussed on speculative fiction by up and coming women authors, which considering the number of things I’ve read about the under-representation of women in the genre, is surely a step in the right direction.

My offering to this edition is called ‘Harmony‘, and it tells the story of two symbiotic alien races, and the pressure that technology puts on that relationship.

To quote from LSQ:

“Our eleventh issue is packed with brilliant stories from our fabulous women authors.

There are a ton of fabulous stories ready and waiting for you. We love putting these issues together for you and this one was a pleasure from start to finish. We’re humbled that so many talented women chose to send their stories to us. We have science fiction, fantasy, creepy stories, light-hearted stories, and odd things that defy categorization; the scope is as wonderfully varied as the women who wrote them.

Your purchase helps support LSQ and gets the word out about women speculative fiction writers!”

If you’d like to read it and the other great work on offer, please pop over the their website, where you can purchase it in three formats (Epub, Mobi and Pdf) for $2.99.

Thank you! 🙂

The Artemis Effect

Finally, I’m proud to announce that my new novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’ is available from Amazon! Hooray! Time to celebrate. 🙂

It’s currently available as an ebook for Kindle (and Kindle apps on iPhone and iPad), but will also be available in hard copy format soon.

To give you an idea of what it is about, here is the blurb:

Three comfortable lives are shattered when a wave of inexplicable events exposes the fragility of human society. With an unprecedented celestial phenomenon, devastating high tides, a breakdown in global communication networks, and the sudden appearance of violent ring-gangs swarming through cities and towns, Kimberley, Scott and Bryn struggle to understand the vast events unfolding around them. Will they survive the Artemis Effect? Will they discover the truth behind the collapse of society before it’s too late?

The book has something of an unusual structure, being told from three completely different sets of people in different areas of the world. It also, I am interested to note, has something of a feminist nature to it. This was not really an intentional thrust of the book: I just like strong female characters.

It’s been quite a drawn out process, so I can hardly believe that it is finally out there. It went something like this:

  • 2003    Sat down on the sofa and jotted down some notes for a new science fiction novel. I was inspired to write in this genre partly because I’d read some terrible examples, and thought that I could have a go at doing something better!
  • 2003-2007    Wrote, researched and finally finished the first draft. There were, I admit, long breaks in this process, when the book would go away for a month or more, and then I’d be re-inspired to push on. I recall finishing the draft just before a bellydancing class, and announcing the fact to the other women there. They were supportive, but to be honest a little baffled that I’d chosen to write sci-fi.
  • 2008-2009   Again, it went away in the drawer for a while, so that I could get some perspective on the work. When it came out, I went through and brutally edited it. It was only after this process that I allowed anyone (even my partner) to read it.
  • 2010   I did submit the novel to one or two publishers, and while I got quite a positive response from one, I began to see that it would be really extremely difficult to break into traditional publishing as an unknown writer. I confess I lost heart a bit at this point, and wondered if it was all worthwhile. To be honest, when I wrote it, I didn’t really imagine that it would be published, so I didn’t push too hard in this direction.
  • 2011-2012    Towards the end of 2011, I started to hear about the ebook revolution, and thought that it would be nice to put all that hard work to some good. Little did I know what an intensive ten months I was in for! Re-editing, taking on comments from beta-readers, re-editing again, proofreading (not once, but at least three times!), cover design, and then learning the intricacies of correct formatting.
    I’ve no doubt that it is a much more polished and readable book than when I first submitted it to publishers, and I’m proud that it is be best I can make it at this stage.

If anyone would like to read it, then I thank you for your time, and hope you enjoy it. If you do, then please consider posting a review of it – I’d be most grateful. 🙂

I’d also love to hear about the process of getting your books together (if you write). Were you as accomplished a procastinator? Or were you driven and dedicated?