Thursday, June 30, 2011

Excellent podcast about fantasy literature by W. Brondt Kamffer

I finally made the time last night to listen to a podcast by fantasy author W. Brondt Kamffer. We connected on Twitter a while back, and he seems smarter than me, so of course I'm impressed.

The podcast I listened to last night was about Theme in Fantasy. For almost half an hour, he gave an excellent talk on the subject and cited many meaningful examples. If you're like me and actually miss the days when you could sit in a literature class and listen to a lecture, I definitely recommend his Gods and Men podcast.

W. Brondt Kamffer is the author of The Wars of Gods & Men and The Wrath of Kings & Princes. He will be presenting a guest post at this blog over the summer as part of a blog tour that he is planning. Please follow this blog and stay in touch.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm on red geek alert until July 1st

Ever since learning that Netflix is going to add Star Trek the Original Series to its streaming service on July 1st, I've been eagerly awaiting the date. I've been a huge Star Trek fan since before I could even tie my shoes. I credit that television show with stimulating my imagination at a very young age.

I can't even decide which episode I will watch first. I have so many favorites. Will it be the Doomsday Machine? Gamesters of Trikselion? Or how about the episode when Spock gets blasted by the flower and falls in love? And remember that great episode when Captain Kirk's body gets taken over by that woman scientist who has always longed for authority and power? William Shatner does a marvelous job of acting like a woman in a man's body. Oh, how about Spock's Brain? I love remote control Spock.

I'll spend the summer burning through them all. I'll gorge myself on the social messages, free love, brawling, space diseases, mini skirts, and Kirk talking computers into self destructing. And when I'm fully besotted on Romulan ale, I will turn to Voyager, because that Star Trek series will also be part of my Netflix service too. Oh, Captain Janeway how I love you. Should you call her Sir or Ma'am? She prefers Captain. And she is the only Star Trek captain fit to polish Kirk's boots. Yes, I know everyone loved Jean Luc Picard, and I do too. I even had a bald boyfriend when The Next Generation was at the top of its game, but Picard is stodgy and I like Janeway better. She's a gutsy gambler who would go too far if she did not have Chakotay to pull her back from the brink.

So what's your favorite episode or character from Star Trek? Comment and let me know. I could talk Star Trek till the cows come home and I don't get to do it very often.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Good review for Judgment Rising: The Rys Chronicles Book III

Albert Robbins III of Free Book Reviews was apparently listening to the voices in my head when he recently stated in his review of my fantasy novel Judgment Rising: The Rys Chronicles Book III that:

"Tracy is an amazing author and deserves to sell millions and millions of copies of this series."

What a coincidence. I've always thought the same thing. Thank you for the great review and I'm so happy you're enjoying my fantasy series.

Friday, June 24, 2011

One week left to enter to win The Rys Chronicles fantasy series

The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series
My June ebook giveaway is for The Rys Chronicles complete series in ebook format. On July 1st one lucky winner will receive this life-changing prize. I will give away all four novels of the series: Union of Renegades, The Goddess Queen, Judgment Rising, and The Borderlands of Power. People can enter through June 30th.

To enter simply join my readers' list or leave a comment here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I inspired somebody

M.R. Mathias author of numerous fantasy and horror stories, including the Wardstone Trilogy, recently stated in a blog post at Fantasy Book Critic that I inspired him to begin self publishing his fantasy fiction. He was right when he said that I probably had no idea that my obscure questing for success made another writer say, "Hey, I want to do that too!"

Judging by his ratings, sales ranks, and number of twitter followers, Mathias is enjoying growing success and really catching on with fantasy readers. I'm very happy that the example I set caused him to put his fiction out there and start marketing it. If you really believe in your work, then you should put yourself in the public arena and start getting real people to read your work. No fiction writer needs a publisher. Fiction writers need readers, and the internet gives you a way to access a big chunk of the human population. Of course there are about a trillion other things competing for people's attention, but at least you're competing. There's a big difference between being on the field and sitting in the stands.

These days, many people like to proclaim that self publishing or indie publishing as it's more recently styling itself is losing its stigma. Well, I never really felt stigmatized by doing it, even when I began six years ago. The stigma for me was going to some boring job every day and having manuscripts pile up in a closet. Looking in the mirror every morning and knowing that I was not doing anything to get my work in front of readers was far more undesirable than trying to make a business out of my creative passions.

Thank you for mentioning my influence on your business decisions M.R. Mathias. I'm sure you'll enjoy continued success, and I'm so very happy that you're not sitting around waiting for rejection letters!

See details about his Indy Kindle giveaway going on through the Fourth of July. The Kindle will contain all work by M.R. Mathias and he's even including other fantasy novels, like The Rys Chronicles.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Jak Phoenix by Matt D. Williams, a sci fi adventure novel

Canadian author Matt D. Williams has produced a witty, entertaining, and action-packed space adventure with his novel Jak Phoenix. The main character by the same name is a free-wheeling space captain with a clunky old ship, the Tempest, held together by salvaged out-of-date parts. Jak, whose piloting skills range from brilliant to lunatic, makes excessive demands on his beloved craft all the time while his one-person crew consisting of Baxter works diligently to cobble together software that keeps the ship's systems running. Hobbled by bad luck and poor planning, Jak makes a sporadic and mostly inadequate income salvaging materials and accepting what transit work comes along. He thinks he's going to finally make a good score when he seeks to claim the Balarian Tablets that are valuable ancient relics lost on a desert planet.

Of course the salvage mission goes horribly awry, mostly because of a dragon, but especially because Jak's old associate and now rival Murdock wants the treasure too.

As the story progresses, recovering the powerful Balarian Tablets becomes central to the plot. A beautiful Balarian woman named Cyan wants to restore the tablets to her homeworld, where their power will sustain the world's ecology. She teams up with Jak and Baxter in a round about sort of way and they pursue Murdock across the Azore's Crown Galaxy. Murdock, despite his wicked disregard for all life, proves to be the least of Jak's problems. Murdock actually means to sell the tablets to the dreaded Captain Cartrite who has been building a mini empire in the galactic fringes. Cartrite is prolonging his life with technology, building an army of advanced and mostly disposable soldiers, and planning to take over the rest of the galaxy and reshape its citizens according to his warped vision of perfection. Tapping into the Balarian Tablets promises to be Cartrite's ticket to supreme power.

Jak of course becomes pivotal in stopping Cartrite's madness, and the stakes of the novel keep going up. There are space battles, traps set in nebulas, escapes from terrifying laboratories, blaster fights in close quarters, and sneaking around in maintenance shafts. The novel Jak Phoenix unabashedly follows every formula and cliché popularized by the sci fi genre. There are overheated engines, remotely-detonated explosives, hacking into defense systems, self-destructing ships, and all of these things were perfectly acceptable and wonderful to me. I love sci fi adventure and the motifs of the genre were lovingly executed by the author.

But the real charm of this novel is its humor. The wit of Williams is artfully low key, and reading Jak Phoenix made me chuckle quite a bit. I enjoyed picking up the novel because I knew it would make me smile and laugh. The novel is full of delightful scenes like this:
The Tempest's computer had a female voice, although it was not Jak's first selection from the three settings programmed into the operating system. Jak's nonconformist nature subconsciously forced him to insist on an alternate choice, due to the fact that so many pilots and captains chose a female voice for their ships. He had tried the other options. The supplied monotone, generic computer voice, scared the hell out of him and the sophisticated male voice made him uncomfortable. He quickly realized why so many people went with the female setting.
I happily recommend Jak Phoenix to readers who enjoy solid plotting, fun characters, and adventure. The action is plentiful and Jak is a hero easy to root for, and he needs you to root for him. He's daring and good-hearted, but definitely not an overachiever. Throughout his death-defying adventures, most everything goes wrong except his pants falling down. Matt Williams' writing is crisp, clear, and flows from scene to scene effortlessly. He's a writer who has definitely spent more time with Han Solo than the average wookie, but he channels his inspirations in an admirable fashion.

Visit the Jak Phoenix Universe to access all the places where you can buy this novel.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reflections on the Battle Creek tornado

Trees crashed down on my lane on May 29th in the Battle Creek storm.
With so many people dying down South this spring in the terrible tornadoes, I had told myself to take the storm sirens extra seriously this year. All spring a dread had been creeping over me because I knew as the season advanced the severe weather would head north to where I live in Battle Creek, Michigan.

On May 29th, 2011 my premonition became reality at about 4:30 in the afternoon. The storm sirens went off. This is the warning to seek shelter, but, like most people, I went outside to make an assessment of the sky. Some of my neighbors were doing the same. The day had been warm and heavily overcast, and from the southwest I could see a dark stormy mass approaching. At first, the storm really did not look like a big deal, but then it rushed across Goguac Lake with alarming speed. I looked up and saw an ugly slate-colored sky with white tendrils swirling down like the heads of a hydra diving from the sky.

Over the last couple months my oldest son has been obsessed with weather and we have watched many episodes of Storm Chasers in which the filmmaker tries to film tornadoes up close in his Tornado Intercept Vehicle or TIV. When I looked up and saw the vaporous tentacles of a gargantuan cloud jelly fish descending my first thought was "This looks like the view from the TIV."

Not good. Really not good.

Immediately I went inside to shut the windows. Just that past week I had listened to an engineering professor on a radio chat show explain that the old time advice to open your windows in a tornado is absolutely wrong because it lets the wind get in and push on your house from the inside. With the main level secured I raced upstairs to close those windows and that's when the storm hit. Everything went white outside as the wind vaporized the rain. It looked exactly like films of hurricanes, and I could not see beyond my yard. The power went off immediately. I hustled my sons to the basement where we waited for a tense few minutes while my dog had a panic attack. Through the basement windows I could see very little because of the obscuring whiteness.

When things quieted, I went upstairs, thankful that I still had an upstairs. I must admit that my old little house took what the storm was giving without even a creak. May it always perform so well!

The outside however had been frighteningly transformed. Chewed up pieces of tree leaves plastered the front of my house. My little lane was a bad mess. My old neighborhood has very large trees. Miraculously the two monstrous oaks and two colossal maples around my house were fine, but five large oaks and several smaller trees were crashed into a crazy jumble on my lane obscuring two homes. The two houses were thankfully undamaged. I watched one of my neighbors emerge from the leafy wreckage with one of his dogs, beaming a somewhat hysterical grin.

"Is your house still there?" I asked.

"Yes!" he declared as if he had just won the Lotto and told me with great satisfaction how the pine tree in front of his house had deflected one of the oaks. He added that his wife had wanted him to take the tree out the year before but he had stood firm against her lack of forethought.

Although I was quite happy for him and his bashed and leaning pine tree, the scale of the destruction was jaw dropping. That I did not hear any crashing booms when it was happening attests to how fiercely the wind was roaring.

At first I thought my lane was the extent of the disaster. Sometimes a small twister can touch down briefly out of a severe storm and then bounce back into the sky. Also I figured that with our huge trees and all the rain we had in May that the tree fall was just a long time coming. The trees that fell were down the hill where the ground would be wetter and softer. I don't know the official rainfall for May 2011, but I know that I emptied my little 5-inch rain gauge twice in May. Ten inches and more in a month is pretty wet.

As the storm rumbled away in the distance people poured into the streets to survey the damage and check on neighbors and relatives. Then my normally quiet neighborhood became increasingly clogged with traffic. Many people were gawking at the damage, but they were also trying to find a path up to the main roads. Trees and downed power lines had blocked all points of entry and exit.

Curious, I packed the boys in the Jeep and went exploring. This was when I realized that the storm damage went far beyond my little neck of the woods. Trees large, medium, and small were down in tangled heaps everywhere. Some had crashed into houses. Power lines were drooping all over the place or on the ground and tangled in trees. When I finally reached the main commercial road after driving on power lines and navigating around fallen trees, Columbia Avenue was strewn with the chunks of the roofs of many commercial buildings. Signs were broken, bent, and twisted. I saw some parking lot lamps completely bent over. The tops of power poles were sheared off and still hanging from their wires. I read later in the Battle Creek Enquirer that approximately 100 utility poles went down in the storm. I still don't know how many homes have been damaged, and I doubt that any one will ever know how many trees went down.

I will miss those trees. The ones near my house were my friends. I enjoyed their beauty, walked beneath them, and breathed their oxygen every day. Thankfully no people were killed. The people in Battle Creek appreciate that this storm was not as deadly as the ones in places like Joplin, Missouri. Our homes weren't scoured down to nothing and no one had to pick their dead relatives out of rubble, but I now have truly seen the fury of Nature up close and personal. When I looked up and saw those squirrelly swirling cloud tentacles moving so much faster than normal, I beheld that which I could not bear to look upon. I can still see it in my mind. I don't like to look at the memory. It is laced with fear and trauma. That bare-fanged fury of a judgmental heaven sent me scurrying for my hole without a moment's hesitation. The absolute power of such a storm injected me with a terrible energy. The storm was a violent discharge of energy and the adrenaline jolt kept me up the whole night, and that first night was a black one. I even got spooked by the wreckage-filled darkness beyond my candlelit windows. A comforting snuggie of civilization usually insulates us from the omnipresent potency of Mother Earth, but when she looks back at you from the true darkness, you know that you are always at her mercy.

And the storm was merciful to me and mine. The nearby families that suffered damage have my sympathy. My day may yet come as did theirs.

That evening, before a darkness free of our puny electricity descended, the skies cleared and a sublime sunset sparkled over the waters and the twisted torn trees. The air was fresh, and golden light kissed all that was green and living. After so much rage, Mother Earth relaxed as if nothing had happened and she said to me, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Predators on the prowl - I heard something die last night

At about 11 p.m. last night I sat near a window in the upstairs of my house. The moon was nearly full and its gentle silvery light brightened the balmy night. Then a scream behind my house startled me. My thoughts flew through the possibilities for what I was hearing. Cat fight? Child screaming? Goose being crushed?

I rushed downstairs and called my husband to hear the screams. We went into the screened in porch at the back of my house and listened. The screaming had ended. There were no more bloodcurdling shrieks, but we heard something bashing about the bushes on the other side of a fence. There was the distinct sound of climbing and then a horrible and greedy chomp, chomping.

My husband speculated that it was a raccoon that had made a kill because he said raccoons make those sloppy nasty chomping sounds when they get something good to eat. The ravenous slavering coming from the other side of the fence unnerved me. Then the unseen creature went silent as it surely heard my husband and I talking about it. Instinct kicked in and it slunk away with its kill to a more private location.

Although I can't be sure what was killed, I'm guessing that it was a juvenile goose based on its final nasal wailing as it failed in its fight for life. There are many young geese around, just hatched last month. They are astonishingly large already considering that they were bumbling fluffs six weeks ago, but they won't be able to fly until fall. One gosling lost in the night apparently made an easy target.

Hearing these sounds of life and death beneath the hunter's moon last night reminded me vividly of why we have an instinctive fear of the night. Things prowl out there, and if they can, they will grab us and eat us. Perhaps humans don't have to worry about that as much as they used to, but the primeval possibilities remain. Nature has an appetite and one should never assume he or she can safely pass in the night.

I store little experiences and feelings like these in my mind. That sensation of true fear, of hearing the moment of death, and the lip-smacking hunger of a successful predator are raw and real things that inspire my writing. Storing rare moments like these helps me write my characters' feelings when they are in frightening situations.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Two ways to win The Rys Chronicles complete fantasy ebook series

Win a Kindle and The Rys Chronicles

Right now through July 4th, popular indie fantasy author M.R. Mathias is promoting his latest novel Kings, Queens, Heroes & Fools: The Wardstone Trilogy Book Two by running a giveaway drawing for a Kindle loaded with all his novels plus more fantasy novels from indie novelists, including yours truly. That's right, this Kindle giveaway will include free access to all four novels of The Rys Chronicles: Union of Renegades, The Goddess Queen, Judgment Rising, and The Borderlands of Power. Thank you M.R. Mathias for including me in your promotion.

Fantasy fans interested in entering this drawing (and who wouldn't be interested in winning a Kindle?) can do so at the Fantasy Book Critic.

What's the second way to win The Rys Chronicles?

It is not as grandiose as winning a Kindle, but you'll likely have a better chance of winning my fantasy ebooks if you join my readers' list at Brave Luck Books. There won't be so many people clamoring to win a Kindle, so the entrants will create a smaller pool to draw from. Every month, I will do a drawing from the pool of new readers and give away all four novels of The Rys Chronicles.

Even before the drawing you can download the first novel of the series Union of Renegades for free to see if you like my style.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Photos of severe storm damage in Battle Creek, Michigan

This is my lane when I first emerged from the basement on 5/29.
On May 29th, a severe storm possibly with tornadoes hit Battle Creek, Michigan where I live. The worst of it went directly through my neighborhood. Amazingly my house and big trees are fine, but there was heavy damage all around and across the town. Countless trees went down in a matter of minutes and many homes and commercial buildings received damage. Fortunately no one was killed, but we all have a long way to go with clean up. Just this morning I was cutting up fallen tree limbs in the abandoned property two doors down. My power was out for three days, which was not so bad considering the extent of the damage. The work crew spent two whole days rebuilding the power infrastructure on my little lane alone. They had to replace two power poles that were crushed when we lost four large oak trees. My internet connection was down for nine days, which was a painful reminder of how information-free and disconnected the world used to be before the internet.

Some closer views of the lovely trees that went down. The picture with the cars will help you see the size of these trees. They were so beautiful. I will miss them very much.

Clean up crews got the lane open on June 1st.

One of the oaks across the street from me.

The view up my cross street. Many homes were badly damaged on this street. It took about four days to even get it open for traffic.

A close up view of the many logs now piled at the end of my lane. There have been logging trucks and equipment in the neighborhood for close to two weeks now. I don't know when or if this pile will get cleaned up. No one is living in the property where these trees came down.

Touring my neighborhood on my bike on June 3rd I took this picture of a big oak that went down and crashed into another big oak and pushed it down too.

Piles of debris are in front of most houses in the damaged neighborhoods.

When this tree went down it tore up the driveway.

The crane you see in the background was necessary to lift large trees off of houses.

This was why I did not have internet for nine days.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tornadoes delay May ebook prize drawing

Please be patient if you have entered to win the ebook giveaway drawing at my website. Tornadoes hit my town on 5/29. My neighborhood took the worst of it. My power has been restored but I still do not have internet access. I'm writing this blog from my public library. When internet is restored to my home, I will notify the winner and purchase the prize.

For details about the giveway see my previous post

Until I have internet access at home, anyone who joins my readers' list will be included in the May drawing.

I'll provide photos of the damage here as soon as I can. My house and big trees are OK, but many other people were not so lucky. Fortunately no one died. I'm still a little stunned that my property is OK. I feel lucky because I am surrounded by destruction.