Eric Klein of Feature Friday Futures

Eric Klein is a lifelong science fiction and fantasy reader, but have always enjoyed those stories that show how the science and technology affect people’s lives.

Research includes the various technologies used, and shown, from the wrist communicator to the actual relative location of the planets at the time of the story, All of technology and science used in this story are directly based and extrapolated from what we know now, and explained in an appendix.


Jane Jago – Author of the Week Sept. 15 – 21, 2017

By Eric Klein

In the brief time since I last spoke with Jane, she and E.M. Swift-Hook have released a second book in their Dai and Julia series. This one is called Dying to be Friends.

Ok, so last time we discussed building an alternative Roman Empire, so in writing this one what did find that you needed to add to the world that was not in Dying to be Roman?

We added details of border forts on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire, including communal latrines. We also beefed up the understanding of how the Roman Army works. In our world the Vigiles (police) are part of the army. In Britannia we added some more idea of the differences in social structure for locals and Romans, and of the inequalities our protagonists face.

Did it mean you had to do more research to make the science or tech work in this book?

One of the areas of constant head scratching is Latin. An A level nearly fifty years ago isn’t much help, I’m finding. And geography and place names.

How does this one differ from Dying to be Roman?

This is a prequel, and contains two stories. One is Dai’s first case as a full-blown Vigiles. The other tells how Julia is abandoned in the border badlands.

Which speculative fiction influenced this world or series?

I don’t know if we can actually put our fingers on any fiction in particular as a direct influence. The Welsh side borrows from the Mabinogion. The Dai/Julia relationship may have been influenced by Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane or Lindsey Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina. And so on. We are both voracious readers, so pinning us down to specifics…

How would you compare your world to other alternative Roman empires like the ones in Roma Eterna by Robert Silverberg or the Felix the Fox stories by Assaph Mehr?

I think our world is pretty much our own. We tried to start with a clean sheet. Giving ourselves a jumping off point in actual history, we then allowed the needs of our story to shape us a world. It is a pretty brutal society, where the human rights thing really hasn’t kept pace with technology. I don’t honestly think I’d much like to live in the world we have created.

Read more at Feature Friday Futures

Brhi Stokes

A budding author, Brhi has been writing ever since she could put pen to paper and daydreaming  in every spare second.

C A L I G A T I O N, her first published novel, is an urban fantasy about a young man lost in a strange city – the likes of which he never could have imagined – while he tries to dodge unnatural threats and search for a way home.

She is currently beginning a new profession, but decided 2017 was the right time to brush the dust off Caligation and deliver it to an audience.

In her spare time, Brhi enjoys reading, video games, tabletop RPGs, going for long, solitary jogs and music.

Angelique Anderson Author of the Week Sept. 22 – 28, 2017

By Brhi Stokes


This week Brhi Stokes is interviewing Angelique Anderson about her new Steampunk fantasy novels.

What inspired you to write The Dragon Lady and The Phoenix Lord?

I have been in love with fantasy and Sci-fi anything for as long as I can remember. I started out writing fantasy and did a series aimed at young adults. It didn’t complete me though, so I decided to write a sci-fi series. That didn’t feel complete either. Then I discovered the genre that is steampunk.

A marriage of the two genres, with some sass and gadgetry thrown in. I was absolutely hooked! I started devouring everything steampunk that I could. As I learned more about it, and fell in love with the genre, I knew I couldn’t look back. So I introduced my two loves, fantasy (there’s a snarky dragon in here, who I would love to have a real life version of) and sci-fi (I love who-zits and what-zits and gadgets galore!) and waited for them to spark.

That spark turned into a flame, and Wylie Petford, my smart mouthed heroine and her dashing Lord Adrian were born.

Can you tell us a little about the heroine Wylie and her handsome Lord Adrian?

Wylie is a strong-willed, hard-working woman, who has been under the employ of Lord Adrian McCollum as his stablehand. She is saving her wages to pay for her ailing father’s medicine. However, when he passes away and she is left to care only for herself, the loneliness gets to be too much.

Lord Adrian, who is engaged to Wylie’s best friend, is nothing but a gentleman… but it’s no secret that the two have feelings for each other. Amidst finding a magical device that turns Wylie into a dragon meant to balance either good or evil in the world, she now has to navigate feelings for her employer.

It proves to be difficult, as she tries to remain loyal to her best friend. Until she finds out that her best friend’s father is about to take away her home, and the home of those she holds dear.

What’s the single biggest and best reason we need to read The Phoenix Lord?

Quincy, clockwork dragon and guide extraordinaire always has something to say. A little bit of snark and sass, and he makes Jiminy Cricket look like a pansy. There are also giant snakes, pirates, mythology, and water gods, what more could you ask for?

Can you give us two exciting lines from the book?

“I need everyone to die. I need the whole world to become so overwhelmed with hopelessness that they long for death. And when I deliver it, they will see it as a mercy. Then perhaps the Immortals will see my power and allow me back into the celestial towers once more.” –The Fallen One

It took Adrian two seconds to see the metallic glint was the business end of a derringer that Jameston now pointed at Adrian’s flaming phoenix body.

“That’s a cheap shot, don’t you think, Jameston?”

“Not hardly, Adrian.” His finger pulled the hammer back, and Adrian heard a harsh click.

Is there anything we should know before we pick up The Phoenix Lord?

The Phoenix Lord is an adventure for those who love the pull of good against evil. Fans of romance will love the lengths that Lord Adrian McCollum goes for his new bride. There’s a little bit of something for everyone… just enjoy the steam powered ride. <3


How to Improve Your Writing

By Bonnie Milani

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.  Thomas Edison

I don’t remember the first time I tried to tell a story.  My mother always maintained it was about forty seconds after I said “mama’.  I’m inclined to doubt her on this one point, since it takes more than a word or two to make a story.  Still, by the time I was six or so, it was my duty and delight to tell Mom a bed time story each night.  And, like bed time stories everywhere, my tales did the trick: Mom never stayed awake to the end. That might be satisfying – or just a relief – when you’re a parent.  It feels a whole lot less satisfying when it’s my stories that put my audience to sleep.  Obviously, I had to improve.

I spent my youth and early adulthood working through the ten thousand ways that stories don’t work.  I experimented with POVs; came up with intriguing, intellectually stimulating plots that disregarded mundane things like logic or character or development.  Then I tried ignoring plot altogether – character was the thing!   Always, I could feel the story I was trying to get out.  I could feel the wrenching emotions of my characters.  I just couldn’t get the damned stuff to come across on the page.  My readers – Mom, my Grandmother, and any unlucky cousin too slow out the door – tended to wander off within a page or two.  Or worse, fell asleep.

It’s a testament to just how deep the need to tell my stories ran that I kept on trying.  Non-fiction was no problem:  in college, I wrote an early environmental fairy tale that was picked up by the State of NJ for its grammar school curriculum.  I scripted TV programs for the school.  And I kept writing stories.  Only now my audience consisted of college professors.  The universal advice:  stick to non-fiction, kid.

So I did.  I went on to earn a Master’s in Communication (Journalism, what else?) from Stanford.  I freelanced feature articles for newspapers up and down the East Coast, did a cover story for Science Digest, and features for magazines ranging from ‘Peninsula’ to ‘Mankind’.  I built up a portfolio, but my bank account stayed close to empty.

I finally got tired of living on the border of bankruptcy.  I moved to L.A., developed a career in insurance for the Hollywood crowd.  I had one huge advantage over other agents: everybody else believed that selling life insurance is the hardest sell on the planet.  I knew better. Compared to trying to sell my stories, getting somebody to put money down on his own death was child’s play.  I built a career, earned a good reputation.  By the time I left to start my own agency I was representing Hollywood lawyers under pension audit to the IRS.  (A job, I might add, that is guaranteed to make one sympathize with the tax man.)

It wasn’t until my whole family died that I realized I had to either figure out how to make my stories work or go not-so-quietly crazy.  So I threw myself into really studying what makes a story work. I took classes: UCLA extension, post-grad Professional Writing classes at USC, where I had the great good fortune to study under Hollywood’s structural guru, Syd Field.  I found a professional caliber writer’s group that was willing to let me in.  I wrote stories and turned them in to be shredded.  Only now, finally, I had critics who told me why my stories didn’t work:

  • No conflict
  • No clear protagonist
  • No clear antagonist
  • No desire line for the protagonist
  • No character development
  • No plot development
  • Faulty structure and/ or pacing
  • All of the above

I asked questions.  I rewrote.  Listened to my best effort get shredded.  Again.  Re-rewrote.  Swore, pounded desks, swore some more.  Tried whiskey; didn’t help.  Drunk may have worked for Joyce, but it only rendered my stuff incomprehensible.  But over time, slowly, I learned what makes a story tick.  I learned it’s not any one element of character or plot or structure but all of them together, weaving in and out and around each other within the DNA strand of the story world.  I learned why generalities don’t work for characters and their motivations.  I learned to hate and cherish the question ‘why?’.

And if I learned nothing else it was that writing in and of itself is not the way to improve your story-telling skills.  Simply writing and rewriting without honest, critical feedback only hardens errors into bad habits.  Nobody can teach you the NEED to tell stories; that’s a divine gift.  But effective, emotionally powerful story telling is a craft.  To make your stories affect readers the way you intend, you need the guidance of writers and editors who can analyze your work and explain the elements you’re missing.  Why?  Because, pure and simple, no writer can see those mistakes on his or her own.  We’re just too close to the material.

The good news is that today it’s easier than ever to find honest, critical feedback:

  • Join a FB writers group (where better to start than our own Sci Fi Roundtable?)
  • Put your stories up for critique. Note that’s a critique, not an Amazon review.  Your first (and second and …) draft is just a starting point, not the finished product.  As Hemingway supposedly said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”
  • LISTEN to the critiques! A good critique will NEVER take aim at you personally, but having your best work-to-date reduced to rubble still hurts.  Accept it – and get better.
  • Remember that your story MUST stand on its own two feet. Readers can never feel what you did putting the words down unless those words make them feel it.
  • Resubmit to your critique circles.  When your story is as good as you can make it, then hire a professional editor to critique it.
  • Then LISTEN to your editor! It will hurt (trust me on this one!) but listen anyway.
  • Rewrite
  • Resubmit
  • Repeat

And finally, the day will come when a beta reader picks up your story and feels what you felt. There are precious few thrills on Earth to match the feeling.

And then it’s time to take everything you’ve learned up another level with your next story.



Claire Buss

Claire Buss is a science fiction & fantasy writer from the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict, Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 with her dystopian novel The Gaia Effect and set her writing career in motion.

Being a Fantasy Reader

By Claire Buss
Originally posted on April 23rd 2017 on Matthew Olney’s Blog

The Most Precious Treasure courtesy of Dragon Lady Art

I never need an excuse to spend the evening curled up with my favourite book, but events like World Book Day aim to encourage non-readers to pick up a book and have an adventure. That’s the great thing about reading, it will take you somewhere you’ve never been before or if you’re lucky, take you back to explore it all over again. Often readers of fantasy get a bit of a bad rap – there can be mocking and sometimes you don’t want to admit that you read sci-fi & fantasy because it puts you in a pre-determined box, but when you’re celebrating reading I think we can stand loud and proud and shout to the stars that we read fantasy and it’s brilliant.

Or to put it another way – isn’t all fiction fantasy? Because it’s fiction therefore it’s not ‘real’. When you read that chick-lit novel about girls doing lunch and talking about their love lives you may sit wistfully wishing you could be a “lady wot lunches”. It’s no different to me wishing I could go on a quest in a magical land. My imagination just requires a little more immersion, perhaps.

It can be difficult for an avid reader to entice a non-reader to pick up a book, especially when you stumble over the intricate plot twists of sorcery and sword fights. But think about the books that brought you into the genre. I can go as far back as The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, talking animals in Farthing Wood by Colin Dann and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. These aren’t hard-core fantasy tomes. They’re magical children’s books and what a great way to get kids reading by giving them a little bit of adventure. I mean, Harry Potter wouldn’t have been the sensation it’s been without the reader’s ability to immerse themselves in an alternate reality.

Not only am I an avid reader – of all genres but with a particular liking for fantasy & sci-fi – I am also an author. My book is hard to define, it doesn’t really set within a predetermined category. It’s listed under sci-fi because it’s set 200 years in the future but there are no aliens or spaceships. It’s dystopian because there has been a mass extinction event; we learn how humanity coped, adapted and now tries to break free of control. But it’s hopeful and in general, dystopian novels are bleak and literally end of the world. And my book is not about a plucky group of teenagers. Instead it looks at the relationships of couples and how they cope with massive life changes. Being a new author it’s hard to get readers at first so you turn to friends and family, most of whom said ‘Oh I don’t read Sci-Fi’. However, once I am able to convince them that The Gaia Effect is not hard-boiled sci-fi, that they should try it, that they might be surprised and hey look, it’s such a lovely slimline novel with great cover artwork – how can you say no? Then they read it and text me, telling me off for making them cry. Success! All reviews from family and friends start with the phrase ‘This is not my usual genre’ or ‘I don’t normally read Sci-Fi but…’ and I think that’s the key, if you can just get a non-reader to try something new they might be surprised.

Let’s not forget that genre is an invention of the publisher to make it easier to categorise books and not a request from the reader. I don’t think about genre when I recommend books to friends and family. I think about them and choose books to fit, overriding any objections of ‘I don’t read that genre’ with reminders of all the previous excellent recommendations I’ve made. Once we’ve managed to get sporadic readers picking up our novel and getting to the end, our next challenge is to ask them to write a review – even a simple star rating is enough, every little bit helps.