Category Archives: Science fiction

The best 2-star review I’ve ever had

picture of Morgan's Choice coverOf late I’ve noticed a bit of discussion about that never-ending topic, reviews. I’ve had a few things to say about that subject before today. But on this occasion I want to illustrate how ‘reviews’ are used in – shall we say – unexpected ways.

This is the one and only review of my book Morgan’s Choice on Smashwords. The reviewer awarded the book two stars. **— Here’s the review, in full – but feel free to check it out on Smashwords. Just click on the cover at top left of the article.

“Just wanted to tell you that I loved your book, Supertech, and couldn’t wait to read the follow-up, Morgan’s Choice, so I purchased it soon after. I would like to say that I enjoyed this book every bit as much as I enjoyed the first, but I ran into a problem. The copy of the book I purchased and downloaded to my Sony reader died at page 63. I cannot move past that page, in fact it shut my whole reader down. I can’t even read it on my computer. I wish you the best of luck with all your books and am saddened I didn’t get to finish Morgan’s Choice. What I did read, however, drew me in and made me want to read more.”

There’s no way an author can respond or contact a reviewer on Smashwords, but I contacted Smashwords, knowing they would have this person’s email address, and asked their support people to suggest that she contact me direct at my email address so I could send her a new copy of the book. Mind you, I don’t believe there was anything wrong with the file on the Smashwords site. I had downloaded it to check the content, and did so again. But it’s about solving a problem in the fastest possible way. The lady did contact me and I sent her a new version of the file, asking her to get in touch if she had any further problems. She didn’t, so I expect that was okay.

So… a few questions.

Was the review about the book? Definitely – what she read of it. And I have no cause for complaint on that score.

Was the complaint fair? Definitely. She’d paid for something she didn’t receive.

Was the complaint addressed to the right person? No. It was a technical problem which should have been raised with Smashwords – having first made sure the issue was not with the reader, or the internet connection.

But readers are people. They will do what they think is right for them. Suck it up, guys. That’s life.

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How does Superman fly?

Osprey flyingI used to love Superman when I was a kid. I enjoyed the TV series, when Superman wore what looked like woolen undies over his tights and I quite enjoyed the movies. The special effects were much better, of course. Chris Reeves didn’t look like he was standing, one fist out, in a wind tunnel.

I’ve no particular interest in seeing Man of Steel, but the release of this new movie, in which several of the core assumptions percolating through from the comics have been ignored, has got me to thinking.

What is Supe’s most amazing power? I have to tell you, for me it’s his ability to cause selective myopia in all humans. You know what I mean. He puts on a pair of clear glass specs and nobody seems to be able to work out that Clark Kent (mild mannered reporter) is really Superman. As an aside, I recall reading a comic where Superman insisted that the photo of him the Burmese government used for a stamp had to be side on, not facing the camera. And why was this? Because the stamp might be post marked ‘Rangoon’ and the double O might have formed glasses over his eyes. Gosh.

Anyway, back to Superman’s powers. How does he fly?

Think about it. What flies – or floats in the air? Gas rises in air if it has a lower density than the air. So hot air, helium, hydrogen, smoke, water vapour etc. Birds fly by flapping their wings, creating an area of lower pressure above their wings http://askabiologist.asu.edu/how-do-birds-fly. That’s what aircraft do, too. I guess magnetism is a contender if you don’t want to fly too high. Rockets have explosive propulsion at their rear, using brute force to overcome gravity. Of these, rockets are the only ones able to pass beyond the planetary atmosphere. As the atmosphere thins and becomes colder balloons burst, water vapour condenses, jet engines have nothing to push against. Yet Superman can ‘fly’ in space – without a protective suit or breathing apparatus. Unlike Ironman, who has the suit and jets and things.

So okay, let’s accept Supe can levitate. That current magician, Dynamo, claims to be able to do that and some mystics have been reported to be able to achieve the feat. But getting up there is only part of the deal. Then you have to move. Birds and planes can glide and change direction by changing directions. They can go faster by applying more energy. But balloons are at the mercy of the wind. And while winds can be brutally fast, they’re not as fast as Superman. (faster than a speeding bullet, in fact and with more power than a locomotive). So now somebody will trot out the Alien card. Sorry, it doesn’t work for me. Kal El looks just like us. I’ve never seen any suggestion he’s a shape change, like the Thing. But hey! Maybe that’s the deal! He can be anything he wants to be, yet we’ll all see this well built hunk of a man with a rippling cloak, even when he’s emulating a speeding bullet. Cool. Somebody whould write a story.

It’s a bit of fun, folks. Tell me who has your favourite super power. Or explain to me how YOU think Superman flies?

‘White tiger’ – the work in progress

white tigerI’m well into the sequel to Black Tiger, currently with a working title of White Tiger. That’s because Sally Carter, now wife of Indian billionaire and were-tiger Raja Ashoka Bhosle, comes across a white tiger being kept in a basement in Harlem. Ash is on business, you see, meeting other tycoons in the towers of Manhattan and Sally has to fend for herself seeing the sights. She’s not much into Fifth Avenue fashion and doesn’t like the urban jungle. Did I mention Sally has newly discovered she’s a were-tiger, too? She’d like to go to Central Park. But it’s raining, so she decides to take the subway to the National History museum and inadvertently catches an express, which takes her to Harlem. Her were-tiger soul mate senses a tiger close by – in downtown Harlem. Here’s a taste of what happens next.

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“Yes. Tiger. Not far.” Aysha was decisive. And she was right. Sally’s heart thudded in her chest. She smelled it, too. A mix of the seductive odor of male tiger and the urine the cat had used to mark its territory. A full-grown male. Sally turned on the spot to find the source, seeking the strongest scent, while the rain came down harder, drizzling down her neck and under her clothes, a cold trickle on too-warm skin.

There. Over the road. In an ordinary apartment block? Surely not. A tiger?

“There,” Aysha rumbled.

Sally crossed over and went up the steps into a gloomy foyer. At least it wasn’t raining in here, but that was about the only positive. Peeling, water-stained wallpaper hung on the walls, and the wooden floor was scuffed and dirty. The place had an elevator, the buttons scratched form years of use. She wondered if it worked. The smell of tiger was stronger. Somewhere here. There was a door in the corner, probably the stairs. The knob turned and she pushed the door open to reveal a dark, dusty stairwell, flights leading up and down. The smell of tiger rose from below, rank and dangerous. Sally’s heart hammered.

“He is old,” Ayhsa murmured. “Old and hurting.”

Sally’s fear drowned in a rising tide of fury. What sort of animal left a tiger in a basement? “Let’s go see,” she said to Aysha.

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The issue of white tigers and their abuse in America is one of the themes of the book. Press the picture (top left) to find out about some of the very real circumstances surrounding these cats.

If you’d like a taste of Black Tiger

picture of black tiger coverBlack Tiger

He haunts the jungle – and her dreams

When Dr. Sally Carter travels to India to regroup from a broken heart the last thing she wants is to fall in love. But Raja Asoka (Ash) Bhosle is entirely too attractive to ignore, even though she knows it can only end in tears. Hers.

Ash guards his forest and the precious creatures within it, protecting the rare tigers from mindless slaughter, and a secret that lives in legend. From the moment he sets eyes on the Australian doctor, he wants her, even over the objections of his mother and the unsuitability of her cultural heritage.

While Ash fights tiger poachers, Sally struggles against cultural prejudice. Can the Legend of the Black Tiger be the bond that brings them closer together, or will it be an impossible belief that rips them apart. The closer Sally comes to understanding what the legend means, the more frequent the nightmares become. Is she losing her sanity, or is there more to Sally than she herself knows? The answers lie buried in her past.

When the Black Tiger breaks free to stalk the night, only one thing will control the beast.

Read an excerpt here

Reviews here

Buy the book from Smashwords Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo Apple

Mid-summer blog hop

sfrb-bloghop-buttonWelcome to the ‘Out of this World’ blog hop

Hi, and welcome to my worlds. I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown very tired of all the humanoid aliens in popular science fiction – especially science fiction romance. I’m happy to accept far-flung human colonies might have developed their own characteristics, in much the same way that the finches on the different Galapagos Islands evolved into separate species. But, sorry, I cannot swallow the notion that life has evolved somewhere else and created a ‘human’ species so close to ours it is able to reproduce (aka have sex). Needless to say, when I ‘created’ my own alien species, that caveat was to the forefront.

IAC Cover smallIn my Iron Admiral series I have aliens called the Ptorix and they are a long way from humanoid. No, there is no chance of a Human/Ptorix hybrid. They are essentially conical in shape, something they exaggerate with their clothing. They have no neck and the head ends in a dome. The body is covered in short blue fur. Their four arms end in a number of tentacles which can be deployed in a variety of ways. Think of a sea anemone and you’ve about got it right. They have four short legs but these are usually hidden beneath their robes. Three eyes which change color according to mood are located almost equidistant around the top of the head, enabling a Ptorix to see almost the whole way around its body without moving. They have two ‘mouths’, one – resembling a proboscis – for eating, the other for breathing and speaking. So from a human viewpoint, they’re pretty weird.

But they did evolve on planets similar to Earth, so Humans and Ptorix can share the same planets and breathe the same air, although they don’t eat food in the way we do. Ptorix had always been scavengers, sucking up nutrients from putrefying flesh. The Ptorix find it strange that humans eat solid flesh, which they find disgusting and inefficient.

Like us, they can manipulate materials and are technologically advanced. They see more light spectra than we do, and hear a higher-pitched sound range. Needless to say, the Ptorix have their own culture and social mores. If you want to find out more about them, try The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy.

Read an excerpt here Reviews here Buy the book Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo Apple

If you’d like to win a copy of BOTH The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy and its sequel, The Iron Admiral: Deception leave a comment on this blog giving the name of Allysha’s cheating husband.

Put in your entry for the main Blog Tour prize, via Rafflecopter

1st Prize – $150 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner’s choice) and an ebook bundle (currently Ghost in the Machine, Bayne, Recast Book1:Wither, Recast Book 2:Clash, Alien Adoration, Switched, Reckless Rescue, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, Keir, Terms & Conditions Apply, The Key, Marya, Sasha’s Calling, Trouble at the Hotel Baba Ghanoush, Winter in Paradise, Once Upon a Time in Space, the Telomere trilogy, Winter Fusion, Blue Nebula, Demential, Wytchfire, Maven, Fires of Justice, Interface, Girl under Glass, and Breakout, Stark Pleasure, Starburst and The Plan.
Bonus books – Ghost Planet, The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy and Deception, and Games of Command.)

2nd Prize – $50 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner’s choice)

3rd Prizes – four $25 Amazon or B&N gift cards (given to separate winners and their choice)

And be sure to check out all the other blogs for more chances to win win win

Thanks to everyone who participated. The winner of the two books offered on my blog has been informed.

Blog tour – Pippa Jay’s YA SF novel “Gethyon”

A long tiPicture of iridescent ringme ago in a galaxy far, far away…no. That’s not right. A long time ago in the chaotic universe that exists inside my head, I imagined a scene. The scene was inspired by this ring. Pretty, isn’t it? It’s moonstone, a sodium potassium aluminium silicate. Interesting from a chemical point of view (having spent most of my life working as an analytic chemist, that kind of thing always gives me a thrill) but maybe a bit of a mouthful if you had to say it. Moonstone is a far more poetic description, and maybe more fitting to a scifi or mystical setting. I love the opalescent sheen and play of colours in what’s essentially a semi-translucent bit of white rock. The phenomenon is called adularescence, where the light is scattered between the thin layers of the mineral.

But back to my scene. I’d been wondering how to equip my two time-travelling central characters with a means to pay for the romantic meal they were enjoying. I was wearing the moonstone ring at the time, and it caught my eye. I imagined my heroine slipping the ring onto her hero’s finger, glinting in a halo of colours in the candlelight (yes, candles, even in the far future). The hero believing he’d been given a simple trinket.

“What is this?”

“An IDRIS.”

“It is beautiful.” He turned it in the light, watching the play of colour. “Thank you.”

“Oh, it’s not really an adornment. Most humans have that embedded in their arm here.” She touched the back of her wrist, and he flinched at the thought. “It’s an IDentity Ring In Situ. It’ll provide you with identification and credit to buy things. You’ll need it.”

“For what?”

“It’s your turn to pay for dinner.”

That story has never been finished, but the idea for the IDRIS stayed with me. By the time I wrote Gethyon, I used it as the standard form of ID, a chunk of crystal imbedded in all humans not long after birth that would record every essential detail of their lives and background.

Why a ring of crystal and not a chip? A wrist band? A digital passport even? Well, those have been done. I wanted something different, and something that would be with the individual at all times. I’d read about data storage on nanocrystals, and while they may not look like my IDRIS in their current form, I felt I could use the idea (the non-volatile storage of multiple terabytes of data on a one inch chip) realistically enough – with an artistic twist. A simple scan of an IDRIS, which can be done at a distance in the event of a criminal act, it can’t be faked, tampered with or erased. Only the ruling authority can change the data on the crystal. Only drastic measures will remove it, a fact my young hero is forced to consider…

picture of cover of Gethyon

A YA Science Fiction Novel

Released by Champagne Books 3rd June 2013

His father died. His mother abandoned him. In the depths of space, darkness seeks him.

Abandoned by his mother after his father’s death, Gethyon Rees feels at odds with his world and longs to travel the stars. But discovering he has the power to do so leaves him scarred for life. Worse, it alerts the Siah-dhu—a dark entity that seeks his kind for their special abilities—to his existence, and sets a bounty hunter on his trail.

When those same alien powers lead Gethyon to commit a terrible act, they also aid his escape. Marooned on the sea-world of Ulto Marinos, Gethyon and his twin sister must work off their debt to the Seagrafter captain who rescued them while Gethyon puzzles over their transportation. How has he done this? And what more is he capable of?

Before he can learn any answers, the Wardens arrive to arrest him for his crime. Can his powers save him now? And where will he end up next?

BUY LINKS:

Trailer

Picture of Pippa JayBIO:

A stay-at-home mum of three who spent twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay bases her stories on a lifetime addiction to science-fiction books and films. Somewhere along the line a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. Between torturing her characters, she spends the odd free moments trying to learn guitar, indulging in freestyle street dance and drinking high-caffeine coffee. Although happily settled in historical Colchester in the UK with her husband of 20 years, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head. Her works have won a SFR Galaxy Award, and finaled in the Readers Favorite Award Contest and the Gulf Coast RWA Chapter Silken Sands Self-Published Star Award.

LINKS:

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So, to celebrate the release of Gethyon, I’m offering a piece of crystal of my own, available internationally. Just use the rafflecopter to enter, and tell me in the comments which is your favourite gemstone and why. And don’t worry, I won’t require you to know its chemical formula to enter. 😉

What does a book’s cover tell you?

From a marketing point of view, probably the very most important aspect of a book is its cover. Especially if this is an unknown author, the cover should signal the content’s genre. A picture of a crinoline clad lady in the arms of a muscular man may lead to an assumption of regency romance. An image of a bunch of space ships in a battle might lead you to imagine space opera. The recent discussions about genre have caused me to re-evaluate what it is I write. I had imagined that because there are relationship issues in my books that I could badge them as science fiction romance. But after much soul-searching (described here) I think my original instinct was right. I write science fiction with a dollop of romance. The closest fit is space opera, or science fiction action/adventure. Or, if it floats your boat, ‘planetary romance‘. In that last one, romance is used in its old definition, not boy meets girl, hearts aflutter.

Okay, so I write space opera. If I persist with covers sporting well-ripped blokes, I’m probably unlikely to attract many of the traditional purchasers of SF and I may well put off some of the people who do read SFR and may be disappointed in the fact my books are not ‘romances’ in that the romance is not the driver of the plot. So I have changed my covers.

picture of Starheart coverThe new cover for Starheart portrays the space opera nature of the plot, along with a few plot elements such as asteroid mining and a ringed planet. I’ve also changed the blurb to better reflect the book.

Freighter Captain Jess Sondijk thought she had her life under control until Admiral Hudson Confederacy battle cruiser stops her ship to search for contraband. His questions reopen matters she had thought resolved. What if her husband’s death during an official boarding wasn’t accidental?

Hudson has his own questions. Who in the Confederacy is trading with the Ptorix? And what price is high enough to pay for starhearts, the prized jewels the aliens call the windows of the soul?

Jess and Hudson’s interests collide in more ways than one as they follow a shadowy trail of deceit and corruption in search of the truth. But while Jess is more than willing to put her life on the line to protect what’s hers, Hudson must balance the risk of inter-species war at worst and the end of his career at best, in a deadly game of political intrigue, murder and greed.

picture of Morgan's Choice coverpicture of cover for Morgan's ReturnFor Morgan’s Choice and Morgan’s Return, I’ve removed the abs. For those who liked them, sorry. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

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Yes, love and sex are part of my plots. Love is a real and very powerful emotion and I believe that delving into that part of human nature reveals a side of people that is ignored or glossed over in many action-adventure stories.

For those of you you have read my books already, I hope the covers don’t disappoint. For everybody else, I hope the covers work for you. Please let me know what you think.

What do romance readers think of science fiction romance?

A few posts have appeared lately about science fiction romance as a genre. Stuart Sharp took a swipe at the scientific credentials of SFR in this article. His post attracted some spirited response and this post at Tracing the Stars. Reading the comments is always such fun, isn’t it?

Mind you, I’ve taken a swipe at the scientific credentials of some SFR writers, too. Heavy on the romance, light on the science. Rest assured I’m not the only one to roll my eyes at yet another story about the tall, handsome, well-endowed alien men who need to kidnap Human women to replace the females they have inadvertently misplaced. But then again (and I’ve said this so often) if Star Wars gets a guernsey as science fiction, it seems all you need is a few planets and a space ship.

However, the purpose of this post is not to gripe about the science, but to look at the issue from the opposite point of view. What do romance readers think of science fiction romance?

I confess I don’t read romance much. I’m too interested in action and adventure to find a love story absorbing. Which probably tells you a fair bit about my writing. Some little while ago I wrote a blog post for a mainly romance audience at Keith Publications. I think it’s worth repeating.

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Does the very idea of science in a romance scare your little cotton socks off? I guess for some people it would. It’s that word ‘science’, isn’t it, conjuring up visions of test tubes and physics and math.

But there’s much more to science fiction than that. Think about this. The difference between fantasy and science fiction is that in fantasy, magic is allowed. In a fantasy, the author doesn’t have to explain how the great warrior suddenly disappeared – she’s got a magic ring. But in science fiction, the author would explain that the ring is a crystal which excites the warrior’s aura, increasing the wavelength of light given off to a wavelength undetectable to the human eye. The warrior is therefore rendered invisible to those looking at her. (Or some such plausible rigmarole). There now. That’s wasn’t so bad, was it?

Let’s consider a piece of science fiction everyone has heard of – Star Wars. Some die-hard science fiction fans (like me) will say it includes a lot of fantasy and even more dodgy science. Which, as it happens, is true, but who cares? It has spaceships, princesses, ray guns, aliens and a whole heap of fun. And a little bit of romance.

Not much romance, I grant you. On the flame scale, it might score half a flame. Maybe a glowing coal? But a romance for all that. Remember the rather chaste kiss between Han Solo and Princess Leia in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’? I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one hoping they’d get it on a bit better than that. Soooo disappointing. But… Star Wars is a family show, not suitable for any hot stuff.

Enter science fiction romance. It’s a growing sub-genre catering for folk who like their spaceships, aliens and rayguns mixed with a little bit of hanky-panky. Or maybe rather a lot of hanky-panky. It’s what I write and this next bit is going to look a lot like self promotion. Okay, yes, it is. But it also proves the point.

Here are a few reviews for my ‘Iron Admiral’ SF romance books, all Amazon reviews. (You won’t find them on Amazon because the book was re-published and the reviews didn’t transfer) Click on the covers to link to Amazon.

Picture of cover Iron Admiral: ConspiracyPicture of the Irona Admiral Deception cover

‘I had heard of this book quite a while ago and read some glowing reviews, but had delayed purchasing it because it isn’t my usual style. I like pure romance and when I deviate from that, I typically read fantasy or some variant of that. However, I bought this one, thinking that I would have it on my kindle for a back-up read, when I wasn’t reading something else. Once I started, though, I was hooked and didn’t really put the kindle down for more than a few minutes until I had finished both books the next afternoon. … I highly recommend this for people who love science fiction and romance together or separately.’

‘There is sufficient SF detail to satisfy the Geek in me with an emotionally adept character led story line that has enough erotic flavour to get me hot under the collar… TOH never knew what hit him after I read [this book]… Romance readers will love this. SF readers will love it as well, though. The worlds and the technology are well thought out, enhancing the space opera feel. The whole package is beautifully presented and I can highly recommend this book.’

‘I loved this book. I loved Allysha, I loved Saahren, I loved the main plot and all of the little subplots, I loved the science, I loved the politics, and I absolutely loved the ptorix. If you’re a fan of Star Wars or Star Trek or Battlestar Gallactica, you will probably really enjoy this book. It is so, so good.’

I could add a few reviews of a similar nature for my other books – Morgan’s Choice, Morgan’s Return and Starheart. Sure, I have abs on my covers. They sell books to red-blooded women (and a few blokes). But I also try to make my science plausible.

So you see, the bias goes both ways. And that, folks, is a shame.

If you’re a lover of romance, I would love you to leave a comment and tell me what you think.

I find your lack of faith disturbing…

Darth Vader… and other Star Wars favourite lines.

I’m really not sure why, but I’ve found myself remembering Star Wars lines. Maybe it’s because I’m writing. Anyway, here’s a few of my favourites, a number being by him on the left. I found a few Youtube snippets, too

“These are not the droids you’re looking for.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7l8rWfLAus

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zzs-OvfG8tE

“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” http://starwars.com/watch/encyclo_princess_leiaorgana_a.html

“Will somebody get this big walking carpet out of my way?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31A1WbkeD2I

Han: “We don’t have time to discuss this in committee.” Leia: “I am NOT a committee.”

“You have failed me for the last time, Admiral.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYZoxY3sawE

“Apology accepted, Captain Needa.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69WbIEEs288

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Luke: “I don’t believe it!” Yoda: “That… is why you fail.”

Darth: “I… am your father.” Luke: “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peh2T2543ec

and of course “May the Force be with you.”

Do you have any favourites to share?

You can’t beat ‘been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt’

Picture of relaxed tigerWrite what you know. It’s one of the cliches of writing and (like most of the so-called rules) it’s not true. Translate that to ‘write what you can research’ and you might be closer to the mark.

I’m in the midst of writing new tiger story, the sequel to Black Tiger. It’s a stand-alone book, starring the two main characters but the setting is quite different, and based on the tiger trade in the US. In a recent post, I explained how I came to the decision that I’d write that story and I’m well under way.

Of course, I’ve done, am still doing, the research and I’ll check with people who know more than I do if I got it right. Thank goodness for the internet, and Google Earth. That said, you can’t beat experience. You can’t beat ‘been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt’.

The story starts in New York and I have been there, for just a few days. Sorry, I don’t heart NY. I’m not a big city person, and neither is Sally, my heroine. We both loved Central Park, though. It so happens, too, that the scene where Sally ends up in Harlem because she failed to realise she’d caught an express train also happened to me. Although I didn’t find a tiger in Harlem. Unlikely you say? Sure – but it has happened. Here’s the story of the Harlem tiger.

Now we get to the reason I’m writing this blog post, because I wrote a scene describing my abused tiger finally being released in a tiger sanctuary. Writing this, even thinking about it now, brought a tear to my eye. Why? Well, the world has turned many times since I was a child. I used to love to go to the zoo and see the animals. Our local zoo was small and these days has an enviable reputation in conservation of animals such as orang utans. But back then, like every other zoo in the world, animals were kept in concrete pens. I thought nothing of it at the time; few people did. But then opinion began to change about how animals should be kept, and the zoo changed its housing policy, first for the non-dangerous residents such as the deer and kangaroos. Then it was the big cat’s turn. Bear in mind these animals were never ill-treated. Many were born at the zoo. I’ll remember forever watching on TV as these cats (they were lions) first went into their new enclosure. And those memories are in this piece, as is footage from Carolina Tiger Rescue of a tiger being released into his new home. The writing is very raw, will probably change a little, but you get the idea. I hope. The tiger’s name is Ulysses.

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Barbara Kranstein waved a hand. The forklift roared into life, edging the long prongs into the truck’s interior, then lifting. The operator backed the vehicle and the cage emerged with Ulysses standing, his tail waving. Sally felt his agitation and moved to where he could see her. Max, Bill and the forklift operator shifted the wheeled cage around and through the space between the double gates into the enclosure. It looked good, with a concrete den in a bank, a pool and wide areas of grass, as well as trees.

“We put food in the den for him,” Kranstein said, her gaze fixed on the cage.

When men were back behind the outer fence, Max pulled a cable that raised the second gate, then the cage.

Ulysses just stood for a few long moments. Sally sent him thoughts – safe, good, food, safe – and set her camera into video mode. Ash should see this, too. His head lowered, Ulysses took a step forward. Then another, patting the unfamiliar surface. A stride. And now he was beyond the gate and on the grass. The big cat threw himself down and rolled, this way, then that, wriggling his spine, chuffing his pleasure. Sally’s eyes brimmed, but she kept filming. Eyes closed, the tiger threw his head back and sucked some grass into his mouth. Another roll, back onto his stomach. Now he rose and padded over to the pool, large enough for a tiger to wallow. Once again, he patted, testing with one paw. When he walked into the water and collapsed with an almost human sigh, Sally couldn’t see properly any more.

I can’t write it till I live it

Picture of a tiger at Big Cat RescueI was quite sure, not so long ago, that I was going to write a new Morgan Selwood story this year. And maybe, later on, I will. But not just yet. The story just would not flow. I don’t believe in muses, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as writer’s block. In the immortal words of Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

And yet.

I thought the story was there. It was going to be based on a real, historical event but set in space. I started, wrote a few hundred totally forgettable words and went and kicked a few things. Sure, life was a huge distraction for me in the last little while, but now I’d started again, surely I could get on with it.

You see, the thing is with me that I can’t write it until I can (vicariously) live my story. I stand outside watching the sunset, going through lines of dialogue in my head. Or sometimes out loud. The scene plays, I sort of know what things look like and I can add details in an editing pass, no problem. With the Morgan story, it just wasn’t happening. One reason was that I hadn’t sufficiently converted the plot to space opera. That’s what the Morgan stories are about. Planet-hopping, high action is what I imagine readers will expect. This was going to be very, very planet based. I needed to rethink the action so I could add a spaceship and a space battle or two.

So I left the story in limbo and went and did something else, which was checking out Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. (On line, of course, although I’d love to visit.) One or two people have encouraged me to write another Black Tiger story and since tiger conservation is dear to my heart, it made sense. (For those who don’t know, all profits from ‘Black Tiger’ go to tiger conservation.

I watched a string of videos and read the stories about these cats and how they are treated. Tigers, lions, leopards and the like are not house pets. You cannot take the ‘wild’ out of them. One of the most telling statements I heard/read was that while a tiger will fight to the death for her cubs and is a wonderful mother, when they are grown there isn’t any lingering love. A tiger will fight its mother for territory. She’s just another rival. So bleating “but I reared him from a cub” when the cat turns and bites you isn’t worth a piece of… anything. In a number of cases, cats have injured or killed their ‘owners’. And some of the conditions these poor beasts were kept in… look for yourself. Check some of the other stories, too. And read the stories about cubs exploited in ‘pay for petting‘ practices.

Well, all of a sudden I had my story. I hesitated for a few days, coming up with a powerful villain who could match – indeed, defeat – my two weretiger protagonists, Ash and Sally. I’m having fun again, enjoying the difficult process of writing a book. Half the profits for this book will go to a US tiger rescue group. Not because it’ll help tigers survive in the wild – it won’t – but because these beasts don’t deserve to be abused for the sake of human exploitation and greed. I admire what BCR and Carolina Tiger Rescue are doing (I’m sure there are others), and fully support their actions to ban people from keeping exotic animals as pets. In Australia, you need special permits to allow you to keep reptiles or protected native birds. You’ll only find a tiger in a real, accredited, zoo, not stuck in a tiny, concrete cage at a gas station like Tony the truck stop tiger.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that there are more tigers in backyards and ‘zoos’ in the US than there are in the wild. But those cats are usually born in America, they are hybrids derived from matings between whichever tigers are around. You think puppy farms are bad? And (like cats and dogs) most of these beasts will live miserable lives and end up dead, killed for their hides and body parts.

OK, time to get off the soapbox. Breathe deeply…

Now then, back to writing and being diverted from a project…

Has something like this ever happened to any of my writer friends? Please share.