Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Interview With Diann T. Read

I was going to put this interview in with the Sergeys post but it's too long so...new post! Comments from me are in red ink.

1- Diann T. Read, when did you start writing Sci Fi?

Actually, the very first story I ever wrote, all four sentences of it, with a fat pencil on wide-lined paper at the age of five, might have qualified as Sci-Fi because it involved a little green man from outer space. But I didn't seriously get interested in science fiction until my sophomore year in college. I'd been working on a novel based on the Arthurian legends and was more interested in knights, horses, and swords. I even took fencing in college, though that's nothing like handling a broadsword! Then some of my high school friends, who were major Star Trek fans, "kidnapped" me to go see this new little movie called Star Wars. My initial reaction? "That's Le Morte D'Arthur in space!" All the same archetypal characters. But it got me into the library looking for science fiction.

I can't wait to read Gareth's story!

2- I know much of the jargon comes straight from your 23-year stint in the USAF. How much of the material about Lujan's recovery have you personally experienced, or is it simply fantastic research?

That was all intense research--and I wrote "Dominion" before you could just Google questions about central nervous system injuries. I picked the brains of a couple nurse friends, hung out in the ER with one of them one night, went through the yellow pages to find audiologists and physical therapists and drove to their offices to interview them, and scoured the medical section of the local university library. Then I ran the manuscript past medical people to make sure I'd gotten it right. It was like doing a Master's program in nine months--because that was the deadline set by my publisher. (The Sergey books were originally published by Tor in the late 90s.)

You can really tell you've been meticulous with your research. It brings your characters to life in a way you can't if you simply pull stuff out of thin air.

3- Who have been your hero(ine)s in the Sci Fi writing world?

Authors? Or their characters? My favorite female writers of military SF are C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Elizabeth Moon. C.J. encouraged me--and connected me with my agent--when I was first starting out. Later, Elizabeth Moon went wa-a-a-a-a-ay beyond all expectations to mentor me. We did panels on military SF together at conventions, and when I deployed to Bosnia, I kept in touch with her almost as much as my family.
Elizabeth's character, Esmay Suiza, from a series that began with "Once a Hero," is one of my favorites. While I was in Bosnia and emailing my adventures to Elizabeth, she emailed back, "Esmay is looking more like you all the time!"--which I took as a compliment. And, of course, Lois's Cordelia, mother of Miles Vorkosigan, who takes matters into her own hands more than once.

Holy Astrochick Batman, we have the SAME HEROINES! I love those books! I've also read a ton of guy SF writers (My husband is beginning to wonder if there'll be room for him in our bedroom soon. I might lend out a book or two so he'll fit...;o). Bujold is one of my all-time favorites. I'm always glad to see a woman SF writer.
3- Will you be doing another Sergey book?

Not immediately, though it's not out of the question. It'll more likely be novelettes or novellas. A couple of reader friends about my age have said they'd like to see more about Lujan and Darcie and what they do after "Dominion." I hadn't realized there was a market for middle-aged space heroes!  ;-)

The young studs get all the fun heroes. I think people our age want to see that they aren't obsolete and can still do amazing things. Especially since they are doing more and more in the medical field to keep the body viable for longer. Bring it on, baby. Darcie needs her day.

4- I'd love to hear more about Darcie. She's such a strong woman that I don't want her to get lost in the shuffle. I think she has a whole book's worth of story waiting.

I had a book about Darcie semi-planned, about her bringing up Tristan on Ganwold, but Tor didn't go for it. Here's a young woman from a high-tech civilization abruptly thrust into a primitive hunter-gatherer culture. How does she learn to survive? Can she even trust the native population, who are obviously carnivores? What does she teach her child about his origins? I thought it'd be fun to show Tris as a small child, too, assimilating himself into the gan culture, as children so readily do.

I feel like there's a whole story about her after the trilogy. You could tie up the problem of Remarq in there too. Maybe SHE could even do it...;o)

5- I'd like to watch Lujan finally make it to health. I'm so impressed with what a strong MAN he is. I love that he prays and works for freedom and for his family

Lujan will never quite be 100% physically after all that damage but, as you saw in "Dominion," he learns to compensate. I think that makes him a lot more interesting. In a later book I started brainstorming but never fully developed, he regained enough capability to have another child with Darcie--much to Tristan's surprise! 

I didn't think he'd be 100% but playing with the alternate "gifts" could be really fun. And another child, especially a brilliant girl, would be fantastic.  

6- I'd really like to see Tristan fly again and maybe deal further with his demons.

If Tris had been brought up by his father, he'd be as enthusiastic a pilot as Lujan. However, growing up on the ground with the ganan--and having been subjected to pilot training under duress--he's much more comfortable with ground operations. He can fly, but it's not his forte. I had tentatively planned books showing him progressing into the Spherzah while evading attempts on his life. (After what he and Lujan did in the current trilogy, they're both targeted men.) I also had marriage and kids in mind for Tris; I introduced his future wife, in fact, in "Echoes."

I'm definitely looking forward to that. He needs to really climb out of his shell and shine.

7- I know you're writing another series. What's this one about?

The Seventh Shaman series is similar to the Sergey books, except aimed at the YA audience. My protagonist, Akuleh (the name means "Looks Up," which he has to learn to do on a few levels, but he goes by Ku), would be American Indian if the books were set on Earth. Having a non-Anglo protagonist was a very deliberate choice; I see far too few non-Anglo, especially American Indian, kids in YA fiction.
Ku is an orphan being brought up by an abusive stepmother. He knows a prophecy was made about him at his birth but he doesn't know what it said, so when his stepmother starts calling him Death Bringer he believes the worst. Time to leave before anyone else he cares about is killed. So he runs away from home, lies about his age, and joins the military. Ku also has a snarky streak, which is a lot of fun to write! 
Like Lujan, Ku is a natural combat pilot, but that's as much curse as blessing during pilot training. He also has to deal with cultural issues--his latent shaman capabilities, which adds a fantasy element, clan traditions, and that prophecy--on top of prejudice, some bullying, and the usual teen challenges of boy-girl relationships and heartbreak. In the end Ku will hear the contents of the prophecy and learn that his life does have worth and purpose--a great purpose. And that's the message I want to get across to kids, especially at-risk kids.

Wow! I can't wait to read this series! I love the idea of helping non-mainstream kids come out into the light. This is going to be fun.

8- Are there plans for future series?

Some day I really need to go back and finish that Arthurian book I began in high school. It's actually about Sir Gareth, one of Arthur's nephews and Sir Gawain's youngest brother. All the Round Table knights went on the quest for the Holy Grail but not all of their stories are told in the old literature. So I decided to tell Sir Gareth's tale.

I can almost see the movie now...;o) Picturing Gareth. Mmmm!

9- Are you going to be doing any book tours down here in sunny Arizona? I can't wait to meet you!

I would LOVE to do a book tour in Arizona! But that works best when you have print books. Right now--except for "Echoes," which I had to get printed for some contests, and which is now available in print from CreateSpace--the Sergey books are available only as ebooks for Kindle. They will be available on Nook in early March. If there's sufficient demand, I'll do print runs of "Ganwold" and "Dominion" as well.

I agree with the ebook thing. Right now I'm mostly selling on Kindle. Hopefully there will be print books coming in the near future.

10- What advice would you give aspiring Sci Fi writers?

Trust yourself and the stories banging on the inside of your skull to get out! Do your homework on your topics. To me, the education I get from the research is half the fun. Keep some means of jotting notes with you at all times; you never know when you're going to get a great idea. Write something every day, even if it's only a page or a paragraph. Learning to write well is like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport; it takes coaching, studying, and practice, practice, practice! Attend writing classes or workshops when you can; learn from the pros. And never let anyone steal your dream!

Great advice. Thank you for the interview. Looking forward to meeting you someday soon. Now get back to work so I can read your new material...;o)

Diann's contact information:
Website: www.diannthornleyread.com
Blog: Hero Journeys, at: www.diannread.wordpress.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Diann-T-Read/291193624316145?ref=hl
Twitter: @DiannTRead

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Sergeys Save the Galaxy

Recently I met a new Science Fiction author: Diann T. Read. I'm so overjoyed when I find great new authors in this genre. I was especially glad to see that the woman can WRITE!

I got her Sergey Chronicles Omnibus (three books in one) and despite a trip out of state and the lure of a new baby, couldn't put it down. Every night I'd take up my guilty pleasure and read into the wee hours of the morning, only to be woken up at the crack of dawn by the kids.

The Sergey Chronicles ROCKED!
(Don't read the section in red if you don't want a few spoilers.) 

The story is set in the future and spans several systems. Intrigue, plotting, galactic domination, and assassinations oh my! The Sergey family has been separated by kidnappers. Because of the kidnappers' inability to correctly navigate through a jump, they are thrust seven years into the future, ruining efforts Lujan Sergey for their apprehension. He spends the next fifteen years thinking that his family didn't survive.

Darcie Dartmouth and their son, Tristan, have escaped to Ganwold. There they settle with a primitive tribe until Darcie contacts a virulent and very deadly virus. Tristan must go against all his instincts, knowledge, and training to seek out his father on a distant planet.

On the planet Issel, Tristan encounters none other than his father's enemy and becomes embroiled in a plot to bring down Admiral Lujan, who is in charge of the galaxy's elite fighting force, plus several other key people, and eventually the United Worlds government.

Luckily Tristan is not the kind of boy who falls for just any old story. Despite his abuse at the hand of his captor, he manages to escape and alert his father. 

Issel launches a war against the United Worlds. The shadowy puppetmasters behind the scenes have further designs. They work to thrust Issel back into the arms of the United Worlds.

However, there is someone still further back controlling the puppet-masters. Can Lujan rise above his wounds and limitations to discover what is going on before the shadowy figures wreak total havoc on the galaxy?

Diann puts the reader smack dab in the center of the action. We ache with Tristan as he tries to work out the problems he has between his upbringing and the confusing and dangerous life into which he stumbles. We wonder if he'll be able to save his mother's life. We wonder how Lujan can possibly survive against apparently insurmountable odds and then work to sever the arms of the octopus-like shadow master before they can destroy all he holds dear.

Everywhere Diann's military background is evident, giving spice and believability to her work. She doesn't just toss her characters out into the stars for some swashbuckling fun. She takes us through Tristan's training both in martial arts, and in pilot training; and Lujan's command and recovery. Things are difficult and messy and there are no easy fixes in these books.

If you're a Diann Read hero and you want to get from point A to point C you still have to trudge through point B while suffering excruciating pain and shooting your way through. And you won't feel fine about killing people to do it.

I would like to see Diann add another book. I'd like to see Tristan join his father's unit (the Spherzah), work through his problems, and go back to flying. Does he build something with Kersce?

I think Darcie Dartmouth should have her own book. She's such a great, strong woman. She raises her son in a primitive society while still assuring that he can still function somewhat in the outside world. She successfully helps to bring her husband back from the brink of death and functional life, all while still going to school to improve her medical credentials. We need a book from her perspective and celebrating her unique strengths and weaknesses.

I want to see Lujan rise again. Certainly there's more to do than just stop the assembly from voting one time. He's got work to do. He has to prove he can't be brought down by slimey bottom-dwellers.

Also there is a matter of remaining trash to haul out. Remarq is still out there working things from the wings. Somebody in the Sergey family needs to silence him forever. Will that happen? 

All the speculation aside, I enjoyed the Sergey Chronicles to the hilt. They kept me engaged and entertained, and I fell in love with the believable, intelligently written, strong-but-not-impervious characters. I can't wait to read more.

About Diann T. Read and Her Books
Originally from northern Utah, Diann Thornley wrote her first story at the age of five and never stopped writing. She taught herself to type—with two fingers—on her father’s ancient manual typewriter at the age of six because it was faster than pushing a pencil. After winning a statewide writing contest, junior high division, at the age of fourteen, she began her first novel, which was based on the Arthurian legends. This endeavor filled most of her high school years and freshman year of college, until a handful of friends introduced her to science fiction by “kidnapping” her to go see an obscure little movie called Star Wars. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ganwold’s Child, first book of the The Sergey Chronicles, took seven years to complete, due to completing college and entering the U.S. Air Force. Following a year-long tour of duty in the Republic of Korea, Diann finished Ganwold’s Child while stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. Echoes of Issel and Dominion’s Reach, the second and third books in the Sergey trilogy, were also written in Ohio.
Diann transitioned into the Air Force Reserves following Desert Storm, but her military career spanned 23 years and included deployments to Bosnia and Iraq. In December 2000 she married Jon Read, NASA rocket scientist and martial artist, and moved to Texas. Diann retired from the Air Force in June 2009 to return to her writing career and spend more time with Jon.
Check out Diann’s website at www.diannthornleyread.com, find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Diann-T-Read/291193624316145?ref=hl, follow her blog, “Hero Journeys,” at www.diannread.wordpress.com and on Twitter @DiannTRead, and find her books on Amazon at www.amazon.com/author/diann.t.read Diann is also on Goodreads.
For Parents & Teachers
Diann wasn’t blessed with kids of her own, but she and Jon have nearly 40 nieces and nephews, and she teaches kids at church. She’s also had a warm spot in her heart for the American Indians as far back as she can remember, a warmth and appreciation that was deepened by having a Navajo foster brother during several years of her youth.
Diann writes, “I look at the youth of today and I know who they are. I see their potential as children of a loving God even when they don’t, when their circumstances may give them no reason to believe in God. I see what the world is becoming and the terrible challenges these kids face, especially non-Anglo kids. Do they have any inkling of how precious they are? Far too many of them don’t. It breaks my heart to know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among American Indian kids.
“With my books I hope to reach out to kids from difficult backgrounds, kids who struggle with their self-worth—especially boys, for whom there’s very little fiction available in the young adult market, but also to girls. I want to provide kids with heroes who maintain their integrity and moral values in the face of tremendous odds, even at great risk to themselves. I want kids to see that no matter where they’ve come from, no matter how terribly they have been abused or disadvantaged, their lives have worth and purpose, and they, like Ku (who would be American Indian if he came from our world) and Derry (who has her own tragic history) can overcome and discover their divine worth and potential.
“While I especially hope to encourage, inspire, and motivate at-risk kids, I hope adult readers will find new meaning for their lives as well.”
The Sergey Chronicles
When Tor Books originally published this trilogy in the late 1990s it was called The Saga of the Unified Worlds. It would have been more accurate to call it The Sergey Chronicles because it is, more than anything else, the story of one warrior family—Admiral Lujan Ansellic Sergey, his combat surgeon wife Captain Darcie Dartmuth, and their teenage son, Tristan Sergey—who become caught at the fulcrum of interstellar politics and the demands of their military duty. Wrenched apart and scattered across the galaxy by the brutalities of war, they face captivity, torture, coercion, and epic space battles to be reunited. Only then do their most devastating challenges begin. Having been separated by decades of time as well as lightyears of distance, each of them must confront his or her internal demons to make their family truly whole again, and to defeat a new and more insidious threat to their civilization. Between deadly special operations missions and scenes of deep-cover political intrigue runs a thread that proves how much one family can accomplish with patience, forgiveness, trust, dedication, and unity of purpose. The Sergey Chronicles are all available on Kindle at www.amazon.com/author/diann.t.read and will be available on Nook in early March.
 This is the cover for Diann's newest offering, Running From the Gods. I can't wait to read it!

Travesty Medals

Yesterday I did something crazy. I swam in the Olympics. I actually got two silver medals: a silver for the 100 meter Breaststroke, and another for the 50 meter Butterfly. Sounds cool, doesn't it?

The day was muggy with rainclouds, which subsequently opened up on us about a third of the way through the meet. While in the water it wasn't unpleasant, but the rain grew chill while we were waiting to compete. I understand a few people went to wait for their heat in the heat of the women's bathroom.

I sized up my competition. There were a few ladies who looked lean and leathery. Most belonged to swimming clubs and had clearly been at this racing thing for years. There was a 98-year-old lady and her 70-something daughter. There was a lady who had suffered a stroke eight years ago and hadn't been expected ever to walk again. I figured I could take them.


Only that day I found out I would be trying to do the fly a whole extra length than I'd ever done it before. I was starting from the block, which I'd never been allowed to do previously (never having raced before and the lifeguards won't let you use the blocks if you aren't racing), making my start much higher off the water. I had only started swimming regularly in November. For half of December and half of January the pool was closed. I was out of state for another week of that. 

What was I thinking?

So I was woefully, laughably unprepared. You might ask why I even signed up. I certainly asked myself that when I was up on the block a tad late because I'd run back to leave my glasses on my bag. Yeah. I thought I was barking mad about then. It was a what-the-heck moment. It was a gigantic leap of faith moment. I was praying like a freak that I'd at the very least finish and not look too much like a rank noob.

The gun went off and we dove in. Immediately my goggles went wonky so I could only see out of one eye. I also forgot about long strokes and gliding. It was four laps of rapid, tiny strokes that got me nowhere slowly. I'd been skunked by women almost all way older than me. And that was my easy race. 2:48:38. I must have looked like a basking manatee.

There were only three heats between my 100 B and my 50 Fly. I went around and got my bathrobe and commiserated with my son (the only one of the family who came). But all too soon they were calling my last heat. 

I hobbled up onto that block, which suddenly looked like the high dive. I knew I was in for trouble. The heat before mine had been full of women who looked like swans gliding through the rain-pocked water. I knew I wouldn't look like that. I prayed to at least make it back to the wall without scratching or disqualifying...or dying like a drowning elephant.

The gun shot drove me into the water like a freight train plunging off a bridge. I immediately felt my goggles come mostly off my head. Great. The unfamiliar height completely threw off any semblance of a decent stroke I'd once had even on the first, regularly-practised leg. When I flipped around for the second leg I got a mouthful of water and that was it. Away went the smooth stroke of head in, head out. Now I was just thrashing back to the blocks like a manatee, which had been scored in the back by a boat propeller. It was all dogged persistence just to reach the wall.

I could hear the crowd cheering me on. I knew it was me because everybody else was already at the blocks, waiting for me to drag my sorry fat rear in. They must have been so justified in their calm hauteur of before. They even asked me if I needed help hauling myself out of the pool. Yeah. Train wreck. I had to wait around for a while before I could get one of the swimmers to fetch my goggles. I had plenty of time to rehash all my mistakes.

I went over to check out the times. 1:52:34. My 50 fly was only 7-something seconds faster than the 98-year-old woman's backstroke.

So it was with great trepidation that I went to the office to claim my two silver medals. I hadn't earned silver. I'd only gotten them because there were only two women in my age group in both of my heats.

So what did I learn?

Don't let age fool you. These women were sleek and well-trained. They knew their stuff. Sure with age they'd slowed down a little. But it was very little. I hadn't trained. I was a good 70 lbs overweight and new to the racing scene. I expected prayer to carry me through, when I should have put a year's worth of practice in before trying this stunt. I can't ask God to make up for my lack of practice. He did, however, do what I asked. He got me safely to the finish line of both races.

For next year I can only improve. Maybe I'll have practised enough to earn the medals I get. Maybe my lungs will work better and I'll have actually prepared for the race. Maybe I'll be able to try my entries from the block sometimes. Maybe I'll have dropped a few stone so there's less to haul through the water. I'm hoping to cut off at least a minute from both times.

I can only think, of this race, that it was like those men in Shakespeare's play, Henry 5, as they stood around listening to King Henry making his Crispin's Day speech:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'  

and later:

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

I did it! It was crazy and sloppy and I looked like a rank noob, but I DID IT. I and God.

So. Nowhere but up.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

T'was the Night Before Christmas in Arizona

This is a little late for this year but I just thunk it up.

T'was the night before Christmas
In Arizona--no snow.
The reindeer were striking.
Through the cactus--no go.

They put up their noses
And folded their hoofs
Even though Santa promised
They'd only use roofs. 

"The runners are useless
They'll stick in the sand.
You'll have to use wheels, man, 
And apply 'em by hand."

Then the reindeer departed
To graze in St. David
While Santa must struggle
With his sleigh so deprav-ed.

"What will I do
For propulsion," he asked
Of a slow desert tortoise
Which was out for a bask.

"There are plenty of critters
Just lyin' around.
You might look in the cactus
or a hole in the ground.

At last he was ready
To his team gave a cheer
Though he'd snagged his red suit
On some prickly pear.

His coursers stood ready
What a motley gang.
There were quail and rabbits
And a coyote who sprang.

"On Peckly, On Scraggly, 
On Fleabag and Fluffy
Go Road Pizza, Spot,
Chupacabra, and Scruffy."

To the top of the cactus
To the top of the roof
Came the prancing of narry
A fat reindeer hoof.

They flew through the cactus,
The stickers, and sand.
Santa took off his fur coat
On his sleigh burned his hand.

They went to each stucco-
Encrusted old shack
And Santa soon emptied
His bulging black sack.

By the time he hit our house
He was only in chonies
He was dripping with sweat
His face gaunt and boney.

I handed him water
He gasped out his thanks.
I watered his animals
From our livestock tanks.

While I was working
He filled up our socks.
With snake anti-venom
And pretty quartz rocks.

A roof fan for Mama
A shotgun for Harry
And for me some nice grape juice (since I don't drink tequila)
Would make Christmas merry.

He hitched up his chonies
And turned with a wink
And hopped out the window (no fireplace)
Before I could think.

And laying the whip 
In the air o'er his runners
He raced to the next place
Avoiding drug gunners.

I heard him declare
As he drove out of shot
"Man this place is an oven!
It is certainly hot."

The quail how they chittered
The coyote did bark
The rabbits all squealed
But the sleigh hit its mark

I heard him exclaim as
The cactus he hit
"Oh for cryin' out loud,
There's a spine in my butt!" (or a hole in my suit)

Merry Christmas from Arizona!