Archive | April 2013

Author Interview – Marian Allen

Greetings, Bibliophiles!


Marian Allen, author of Force of Habit

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my interview with Marian Allen, author of Force of Habit, which I recently reviewed.

Bookworm:  Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!  So I read an interview where you stated that Force of Habit first started off as a Star Trek fan fiction. Tell me about the early drafts.

Marian Allen:  I was a “pantser” when I wrote fan fiction, and they’re pretty loopy. They can be found here. So, to all intents and purposes, the early draft was a story, published in Devra Langsam’s Masiform-D fanzine.

When I decided to expand the story and make it an original, I knew I wanted to change the ST characters so they weren’t the ST characters anymore. Bel was mine and Tetra was created by my pal Jane Peyton, author of the Callie London’s Vampire Adventures series (she graciously and generously gave me the right to use the character). The more I tweaked the ST characters, the more they became themselves.

Bookworm:  What inspires you to write?

Allen:  What doesn’t? No, really, EVERYTHING is about writing!

Bookworm:  What was it like working for the Red Cross?

Allen:  Very gratifying. I loved working for an organization that existed to help people. My fellow employees were among the most selfless people I’ve ever known. We also worked with far more volunteers than paid staff, and that was a beautiful thing.

I worked in Accounting (detective work with numbers!) and Youth Services (kids doing things for retirement homes and shelters). Before that, I was a temp in Emergency Response and then in Service to Military Families. I met my husband through a presentation I did for Red Cross at a school. When I was expecting, I said if I had a girl I was going to name her Clara Barton Allen. (Luckily for her, I didn’t.)

Bookworm:  What are some of your other works?

Allen:  The SAGE trilogy: Book 1 – THE FALL OF ONAGROS, Book 2 – BARGAIN WITH FATE, Book 3 – SILVER AND IRON. Book 1 is already out and the other two will be out soon.

I’ll have a science fiction novel out soon, and I’m doing pre-submission edits on a New Adult Paranormal and edits for a new edition of EEL’S REVERENCE, a fantasy.

I self-published four collections of short stories: LONNIE, ME AND THE HOUND OF HELL; TURTLE FEATHERS; THE KING OF CHEROKEE CREEK; and MA’S MONTHLY HOT FLASHES: 2002-2007.

Bookworm:  Your list of awards is longer than my sister-in-law’s police record! What award meant the most to you?

Allen:  The “award” that meant the most to me wasn’t anything official. I wrote a short-short character study of my mother-in-law. When she read it, she said, “How do you know? How do you KNOW how I feel and what I do before anybody gets here on Sunday?” I said, “You told me, a little bit at a time over the years.” She dropped a tear or two and said, “I didn’t think anybody listened.” I’ll never have an award that means more to me than that.

Bookworm:  What do you read for leisure?

Allen:  Anything except erotica. I read mostly mystery, fantasy, science fiction, humor, classics, literary, and non-fiction.

Bookworm:  What is your current work in progress?

Allen:  I told you what I’m editing. As for new writing, I’ve signed up to do Story A Day in May, so I’m not starting anything.

Bookworm:  Favorite book by an indie/small press author?

Allen:  TROLL OR DERBY by Red Tash is certainly one of my favorites. PACKAGED by Leslie R. Lee is another. In non-fiction, there’s Joanna Foreman’s wonderful memoir, THE KNOW-IT-ALL GIRL. Jane Peyton’s Callie London, of course. There are just too many excellent books being published by indies and small presses to list them all!

Bookworm:  What are you reading now?

Allen:  WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE, the first of Jane Peyton’s Callie London books.

Bookworm:  What advice do you have for new authors?

Allen:  I always give the same advice whenever I’m asked: Never give up! Never surrender!

Bookworm:  How has the publishing world changed since you started writing?

Allen:  When I started, there was no internet. Yes, there was electricity. “Publishing” for a genre writer meant getting a contract on a book from an agent and/or a Big Name Publisher. There were small presses, too, but they usually specialized in non-fiction, poetry, or literary fiction. Now…. THE WORLD IS OURS!!!! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaaa!!!!!

Just for fun

Midnight craving?

Peanut butter and banana sammiches.

Dark secret?

Regency Romances.

James Bond, Ethan Hunt, or Jason Bourne?

Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo of NCIS.

Favorite Jell-O?


Favorite literary character?

George MacDonald Fraser’s Harry Flashman. Of course, that’s today. Another day, it’ll be somebody else.

Bibliophiles!  I command you by Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warvan, check out Marian Allen’s Blog!  Also feel free to check out our review of Marian Allen’s Force of Habit!

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Author Interview – Cheryl Davies

The Mark 2 fibreglass (Tom Yardley-Jones) Tard...

The Mark 2 fibreglass (Tom Yardley-Jones) Tardis as used in the 1980s – photo taken by me Zir 23:49, 18 May 2007 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greetings, Bookworms!

Today, I’m happy to share with you all my interview with Cheryl Davies, author of Automaton!  And since Cheryl has yet to provide me with a picture of herself, I’m inserting a picture of the TARDIS. I’m using the TARDIS because she is from the U.K. and because WHO DOESN’T LOVE DR.WHO?!

Now onto the interview!

The Bookworm:  So tell me where the inspiration for this story came from?

Cheryl Davies:  It came from my own obsession with reality TV – fascinated as I was by a certain summer show, I found myself happily watching the participants even as they sleep! It really got me thinking about our TV and gaming society, and just how far an obsession with either might go. In the book, Amelia takes the baton of such obsession, and really runs with it.

The Bookworm:  Some authors model characters after people they know.  Is anybody you know lurking as a character in your book?

Davies:  Funnily enough, all the characters within the pages are the namesakes of my family and friends – I didn’t want to spend time agonising over name choices, so I just went with names I knew. I had every intention of going back over the work and changing the names, but, er, didn’t really get round to it. But are any of them based on the personalities of my family and friends? No, not really. With the one exception of Cameron, who was based on a lovely guy I dated at University.

The Bookworm:  In my opinion the innate bond between Dean and Lily is the heart of the book. Was there ever a draft or time when this relationship was fundamentally different?

Davies:  I always intended them to be a happy, committed couple. Although (spoiler alert) I did have a different ending for them in my initial draft – I wanted Dean and Lily to escape GameWorld, to live happily ever after in the real world, but when I was trying to write it, it became obvious that it just wasn’t realistic. I couldn’t find a way out for poor Dean, and actually cried when I wrote his final chapter.

The Bookworm:  The relationship between Luke and Amelia is in a way an inverted mirror of Dean and Lily’s relationship with Dean and Lily’s being the more sane/rational one.  Was this a way of showing the reader how modern society is losing control to the entertainment aspect of our lives?

Davies:  Well, I would love to sound super intelligent, and say ‘yes,’ when in actual fact I was just trying to portray the possible insanity of obsession via Luke and Amelia, but I love your take on it! It’s fascinating and brilliant how we all take different things from a book.

The Bookworm:  Well don’t worry about sounding super intelligent, because now I feel like one of those snotty English majors that I went to school with!  Snotty English majors aside, What do you read for pleasure?

Davies:  Anything by Dean Koontz, so long as he’s not being too long-winded, when sadly I skim-read to get to the action. But most of the time his writing is simply scrumptious. Holidaying a few years ago, I got so into Demon Seed that I didn’t leave the hotel room for an entire day, and my despairing partner had to go exploring on his lonesome! Steven King is a favourite too.

Since I started reviewing for Indie authors last summer, I’ve discovered a whole new world of totally amazing authors, many of whom have blown me away with epic debuts!

I love anything sci-fi, set in sparkly Space, or in an imaginative, speculative future. I also love anything that makes me tingle with trepidation, although I scare easily, so can’t manage real horror.

The Bookworm:  What book/character/scene do you wish you had written?

Davies:  Recently I read and reviewed the amazing story Erasure, by A.T.H Webber – about the thrall of the Internet and the effect of it upon our spiritual afterlife, I read it and literally thought, ‘Damn, I wish I’d thought of that!’

Just for Fun

The Bookworm:  Favorite literary character?

Davies:  ‘quIRK,’ the quantum super-computer in T. Gregory’s The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum. With a humble wish to see a tree, ordering kittens off the Galactic equivalent of the Internet, he made me cry, made me laugh, and made me think.

The Bookworm:  Favorite Jell-O flavor?

Davies:  Orange, preferably in my mum’s homemade trifle at Christmas. (hehe, had to check on the Net that Jell-O is what we call ‘jelly,’ or that might have been one weird answer!)

The Bookworm:  James Bond, Jason Bourne, or Ethan Hunt?

Davies:  Perhaps shockingly, I don’t know who the last two are, so it’d be Bond. But if it were a no-bounds choice, it would be Nicolas Cage every time!

The Bookworm:  Guilty pleasure?

Davies:  Can I say Nicholas Cage again? No? OK, reality TV. I’m a Celebrity, Big Brother, X-Factor.

The Bookworm:  If you could live in any period of time in any part of the world, where would you live and why?

Davies:  I’ve had to spend a couple of days thinking about this one. Right, I would live in the present, because when I think about the past, it’s always in black and white (does anyone else do that?), like a newspaper world. Strange, I know. And when I think about the future, it’s too bizarre, with disembodied heads ‘living’ in tanks, the sky blackened from some chemical incident or whatever, and it’s too unfamiliar. So where would I live? I love my little IOM, but would like to move nearer to the sea – with hermit aspirations, I dream about looking out the window and seeing nothing but a blue expanse. Doesn’t that sound nice?

I just want to add my thanks, Erin, for taking the time to support debut novelists like me. Your interest really means a lot. And thanks for coming up with the best questions ever!

The Bookworm:  Thank you for the kind words, Cheryl.  Readers!  Be sure to check out Cheryl Davies’ Blog as well as our review of Automaton!

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Force of Habit by Marian Allen (Book Review)

forceAll she wanted was a breath of fresh air. Was that too much to ask?

Apparently so.

Isobel Enid Schuster never planned to go into space. She almost wished there had been no Vatican III, and the clergy had not gone co-ed, or at least the Jesuits had not.

But all those things had happened. The Galactic Union Space-Troopers teamed up with the St. Bennedetta Jesuits to form the Space Academy Preparatory School, and now Bel is a Professor of Extra-Terrestrial Humanities and Value Systems on a starship.

Restricted shore leave on the planet Llannonn is better than staying on the ship, especially when Bel swaps clothes with a close-look-alike Llannonninn woman and slips out to see the sights. But the woman is the target of a criminal from another planet. The woman thinks Bel is a police agent, come to take her place. The criminal thinks Bel is his target. Yet another criminal thinks Bel is a VIP he can kidnap and hold for ransom.

The only thing between Bel and a life of slavery in the provinces is the tenuous friendship she’s formed with Tetra Petrie, a language professor from the planet Gilhoolie.

Gangsters aliens, local law enforcement and highly placed political operatives all get into the act, as a tangle of misunderstanding, miscommunication and mistaken identity land Bel in court, facing what passes for a legal system on Llannonn.


farce /färs/

1. A comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.
2. The genre of such works.
3. Force of Habit by Marian Allen.

Clocking in at a mere 220 pages, Marian Allen’s Force of Habit is a pure comical tour de farce! After finishing the book, I read an interview with Allen where she explained that it started as a Star Trek fan fiction but then grew into its own story as it became more and more comical. This struck me a particularly hilarious as my initial description of the book would be if the crew of Star Trek went on shore leave on Tatooine and had to deal with Jabba the Hut.

It would probably be the crew of Voyager because let’s face it, they weren’t too swift to begin with. And before anyone argues with me on that all the other incarnations of Star Trek would have successfully navigated the situation without much effort.

For TOS, Kirk would have slept with every available female, including the grumpy ambassador thus nullifying much of the tension. In TNG Riker would have slept with every available female, including the grumpy ambassador thus nullifying much of the tension. And if that didn’t work, Picard would have smooth talked his way out of it. DS9 wouldn’t have shoreleaved and Enterprise just doesn’t count.

That leaves Voyager. The crew of Voyager would totally have mucked this up. If you honestly think about it, Voyager was the most “soap opera” of all Star Trek incarnations (once again, Enterprise doesn’t count). I can just imagine Seven of Nine’s handling of the hostage situation ending in even more confusion than this one did.

Okay. Okay. Enough about Star Trek. Back to the review.

Great! Now I have Voltaire’s USS Make Some Shit Up stuck on repeat in my head.

One of the things that makes this story so great is the absolute absurdity of the whole mistaken identify bit. Each character jumps to what the reader will see as wildly illogical conclusions but those conclusions actually make sense from the character’s point of view. At various points in the book, Bel is mistaken for a bookkeeper, a high level ambassador/diplomat, a secret agent, and a galactic union police.

I find that many times with farces or comedies, the author inserts a character that has it all figured out and sees through all the misunderstandings. Allen resists this urge, which made me quite happy as I often find the author is going out of their way to make sure that the reader understands the absurdity of the situation. When a farce is well-written, this character is unnecessary at best or breaks the fourth-wall at worst. At one point or another, every character in the story mistakes someone else for someone else.

Wow! You think I could have said that last sentence better.

Another aspect of the story that lends itself well to the mistaken identity device is the strained/casual relationship of Bel and every other character. Bel is a woman who is struggling to breathe through the boredom and tedium of her post as a teacher on a starship. She often bucks against the system enough to satisfy her need for rebellion but not enough to bring sanctions against her. This causes understandable tension with her crewmates, who must then become her rescue crew.

The alien races are also a hoot. One of the main antagonist is Gord Pron, a Stokk mid-level mobster looking to move up the ladder. You could describe the Stokk as if Jabba the Hut was a lizard type creature with less intelligence and finesse, more aggression, but equal ambition. If they actually succeeded in capturing Han Solo in carbonite, they would have accidentally him during a fight. But in all likelihood, they would have skipped the carbonite and just cracked him on the head.

Force of Habit is fun ride that will have you occasionally face-palming yourself as the character stumble through one mishap after another.

The Bookworm gives the book 4 out of 5 stars.


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About the Slush Pile and the Indie Author

Finish Line

Finish Line (Photo credit: jayneandd)

The amount of review requests that come in on a weekly basis is actually staggering. I had never realized the amount of indie/small press authors out there trying to get some recognition. But one thing I noticed is that a lot of requests simply read “Here’s my book. Please review.”

That’s it. No pride. No drive. No initiative. Just a poorly worded email that probably took more time for me to read it than for them to write it and send it. I’ll be honest. It could be the greatest story ever told and it wouldn’t make it out of my slush pile. If the author isn’t excited about the book, then why should I be?

Then there are books that at first glance, I have no interest in. Maybe the synopsis just isn’t grabbing my attention. Maybe I’m burned out on that particular genre at the time. It could be one of a million reasons. But whatever the reason, I’m just not interested.

But what happens when these books come from a passionate author willing to bleed to sell you on the idea of their book? Well you might just get me interested. Take Automaton for example.

Automaton is the debut novel of Cheryl (C.L.) Davies. At my first glance of the review request for this book, I was initially going to put it in the “I’ll Get to it When I Get to it” pile. The initial idea didn’t really intrigue me because this idea had been done before in a variety of ways.

One of my favorite movies is The Truman Show and the premise was somewhat similar. Notice I say, somewhat. I admit that I didn’t really do my due diligence when first presented with this book.

Cheryl Davies was different from those authors. She is one of authors who fights tooth and nail for every review. Instead of the usual boring, generic request for a review, Cheryl gave a wonderful pitch in which she said it was something akin to “the Sims on crack” (I don’t remember the exact words and am too lazy to go recheck it).

That sold me on the book immediately because let’s face it: Who doesn’t like the Sims?! Oh, you don’t like the Sims? Well you must be a completely soulless demon of some kind. Seriously.

Beside the fact that it convinced me to read the book, my conversations with Cheryl illustrated one of my issues with some indie authors. I noticed that a good portion of them think that their job is done once the book is written. It is almost as if they believe the book will sell itself.

They see the whole process as a 40 yard dash and once they cross that finish line, they can sit back and enjoy the roar of the crowd. What they fail to realize is that independent publishing isn’t a 40 yard dash. It is a marathon that starts with the concept of your book and you cross the finish line only after you have decided that you have sold enough books.
And if one is passionate about writing, you can never sell enough books.

While some of these authors are sitting back wondering why their book is not selling, the passionate ones are marketing their books, listening to feedback, and most importantly writing the next one.

I guess the whole point of this rant is to say that if you aren’t passionate about writing, if you aren’t willing to pour your heart and soul into your novels, if you aren’t willing to bleed to make your book successful, maybe just maybe you are in the wrong business.

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