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Posts Tagged ‘Science fiction’

Some of you may recall my first long form publication was Rayessa and the Space Pirates, which was picked up by Harlequin’s Escape Publishing (digital imprint) in 2013. Rayessa had been languishing my hard drive for a number of years. It started as a short story, maybe way far back as 2002. I was writing the story for Elsewhere. At the time the first 7,500 were the longest short I’d written and it still wasn’t done. When the space pirates turned up, well I knew it wasn’t going to be a short story anymore. It ended up as a novella, then a slightly longer novella. It took it out and revised it a couple of times. I gave it to a couple of people to read with some positive feedback. I submitted it a couple of places. Once it was forwarded to the children’s editor at HarperCollins Australia. It was rejected but the rejection was along the lines of we already have stories along these lines and sorry to take  so long to get back to you. Then it sat in the hard drive a little longer. Then I went to my first RWA conference in the Gold Coast (2012) where Penguin launched their Destiny Imprint and Harlequin launched Escape. It was actually at the launch cocktail party of Destiny that I clued in that Rayessa was also a romance. Chinking champagne glasses with Nicole Murphy I said that I thought I had romance arc in some of my stories. She was like ‘Dah, why do you think I told you to come here?’ The clue people was the slideshow they had playing on the walls. Science fiction scenes at a romance conference.

So Rayessa was published. Then I wrote Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures, which should have been titled, Essa Takes on the Space Pirates or better still. Essa Rescues Mum from the Space Pirates etc. Now Escape decided they didn’t want any more spate pirate stories from me when they took Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures (and also revamped the Rayessa cover). Not with this family at least. So I changed the ending to Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures so there wasn’t too much hanging. But I always had in mind to write Opeia’s story. Opeia (Opi) is the mother of Rae and Essa, the head of AllEarth Corp.

Now pesky ideas will keep bothering you until your write them down. I thought I’d dealt with Opi by writing some notes about the story in my ‘Notebook of Really Cool Ideas’ that Gillian Polack gave me when I started the PhD. It is meant as a place to park ideas so I can come back to them when the Phd is done. Well obviously Opi had other ideas.

Opi meets NaNoWriMo and viola! she is out there on paper! I tried to be more emotionally contemplative in Opi Battles the Space Pirates. My wonderful beta reader (who is a fan of the first two books) gave me feedback. I had to rewrite the beginning and the ending after that. That plot twist that I had come up with but abandoned because I was trying to address my plot addiction by being a bit more touchy feely, well I had to put the plot bit in. It’s just that type of book.

It’s fluff, it’s funny (I think so) and it’s light and possibly uplifting. (Complete opposite to the Dragonwine series). Opi Battles the Space Pirates is also longer than the first two books, just under 60,000 words, it’s adult, but not sexy, more sweet in keeping with the other two books. It features an older protagonist (42) and a space battle goddamit!

Stay tuned. Cover art is in progress. Proofreading is in progress. I’m going to self-publish this one for fun.

Just to refresh your memory, here are the covers of the first two books, which I adore. Not sure the wonderful covers sell as many books as they should, but they are pretty and swish.

Link to the Escape website here. The books are at all major e-retailers. You can also buy these books in large print format/hardcover for libraries I think. I can’t afford to buy myself a  hard back version. There are some copies in libraries in Australia and the USA. Here.

However, I plan to have a print version of Opi Battles the Space Pirates. Just for fun, for a laugh and maybe as giveaways. So watch out.

Oh and the moral of the story? Don’t throw anything out. Learn from rejections. Don’t give up. Keep writing. Follow your heart…and whatever!

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My indie published Argenterra, Silverlands book 1, is on promotion this weekend for 99 cents.

Argenterra is an epic fantasy novel, interweaving three romances over the three books. The story starts with Sophy and Aria and then joins up with Rae’s when Sophy and Aria are whipped into the world of Argenterra a land where everyone can use magic except Sophy. The story is YA appropriate.

Argenterra with subtitle

Argenterra is featured among around 100 books, from SF through to Fantasy so here is your chance to do some exploring. There are some very interesting books here for 99 cents.promo-jan

The link to the promo is here and you can select via your favourite retailer. For example, click on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo etc and you will see the books that are featured for 99 cents with that retailer. Links are also geocoded in understand.

Many thanks to Patty Jansen for allowing me to participate in her promo weekend.

Oathbound, Silverlands book two is still with the editor but I hope to get that our in the next few months. The Ungiven Land is close behind that.

Ciao!

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Time just flits by so quickly. I’ve had a nasty bout of RSI this week and lots to do. I’m still in Audible mode as well as reading print and e-books. This not quite review is of Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. Older SF but still good. When I started on Audible I wanted to use it as a vehicle to read those books that I don’t already own and that I’ve wanted to read but for some reason haven’t. These books were recommended to me by a work colleague.

The Audible files for these two books were good. I haven’t seen the movie btw so I’m basing this on my listening experience.

Ender’s Game for me was an interesting book. I can’t say that I found it easy to identify with Ender’s situation or character. He is a six year old genius sent to military school to be carved into a tool. This doesn’ t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. I enjoyed the idea of the story, of the boy and his experiences. I enjoyed the craftmanship of the story. I enjoyed Card’s depiction of working in micro gravity and how it changes perceptions. We work in a space that has sideways and up but rarely do we conceive of down or no up. I believe the book had a profoundness to it, particularly the ending. If you haven’t read it I recommend you do.

In comparison though, the next book, Speaker for the Dead moved me greatly. Card says in his interview on Audible for Ender’s Game that he wrote Ender’s Game to set up the book he wanted to write, Speaker for the Dead. You wouldn’t necessarily have to read Ender’s Game to understand the next book or get the message, but after being on Ender’s journey it adds to the poignancy of Speaker for the Dead if you do.

What stood out for me with Speaker for the Dead was those elements of realness in there. Card did his Mormon  mission in Brazil and he used that experience to layer Lusitania, with a Portuguese, catholic culture. Despite him not being catholic himself, he used it quite sensitively and knowingly. The economic workings of the colony were very well thought out and solid.

The depiction of the Piggies, the alien race and their alienness was intriguing and fully- fledged. He’d really thought about this. No wonder that both books won Hugos and Nebulas.

The strength of the book for me was the characters. I felt them. They were very three dimensional. Something I admit I wasn’t expecting from an 1980s SF story. I’m not sure why but it was streets ahead of Ender’s Game on this point. I cried in parts of the book. I had to sit in my car and compose myself before going into my office.

The Piggie called Human touched me. I’m getting teary just writing this blog post.

Anyway, if you were thinking of some retro SF then try these books. I’m going to read/listen to the next one, Xenocide soon (after Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy gets its claws out of me).

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This is a long time coming. I’m so sorry to be so distracted to write this up. In my own defence I did write up the Ditmar awards straight away!

I headed to Swancon a few days early to hang out with Glenda Larke. We came into Perth on the Thursday night and attended the guest of honour dinner. It was a great meal and I got to meet a few of the committee and the guests of honour, John Scalzi, Kylie Chan and Anthony Peacey. The committee had a really cool thing going. They moved the guests of honour around with each course of the meal so we got to talk to all them over the course of the evening.

This photo so Sarah Parker, Swancon programmer and Glenda Larke at the GOH dinner. Did I mention one of the best things about conventions is socialisting?

Sarah Glenda GOH dinner

The Hugo results were due out while we were at Swancon so Glenda and I got a crash course on the Sad and Rabid Puppies. The next morning we saw the Hugo nominations and continued our education.

On Friday, I had a number of panels. The first one was Food as Worldbuilding, which was really interesting panel. Food is such an important part of our lives and it was stimulating to think about how what our characters eat tells the reader about the world, or even what they don’t eat. Even rituals about food, either religious or other were discussed. I know have a lot of ideas from this panel that I can put into future writing.

lounging about

My second panel was Terrors of the Second Draft, which was fun. The other panellists had different views-I think I was the only one to find second drafts hard work. It is taking a draft, crafting it, to make it into a book and that takes work, consistency and day after day of sitting in front of my computer. Maybe I’m hyperactive but that’s hard sometimes.

My third panel that day was The End of the Printed Page: Are Books (as we know them) Dead? This was a wide ranging discussion covering selling ebooks, piracy and print books. No, we didn’t think books were dead.

The audiences in the panels were really interested and well informed and were a joy to talk with. I took some photos of the panelists in other panels I went to.

SwanconKeith

John Scalzi, Guest of Honour Speech

John Scalzi, Guest of Honour Speech

The convention had a lovely vibe and it was quite surprising to me that I didn’t know most of the people. I haven’t been to Swancon for ten years. It is also a vibrant SF community. It was great to see the committee had some many people supporting it.

Anthony Peacey picture below hosted and organised the first Swancon. I had to pleasure of listening to his speech on listening, technology and the changing world.

Anthony Peacey, Guest of Honour Speech

Anthony Peacey, Guest of Honour Speech

I visited the dealers’ room on Saturday. It closed on Sunday and Monday. I raided the small press tables and also bought a Lost in Space Robot for me and a talking Bender for Matthew. I already posted about the Ditmars so I’ll skip that.

Lost is Space Robot.

Lost is Space Robot.

Book haul. One of the best thing at a con is picking up books, particularly small press books that aren’t easilybook haul

Scalzi and Cat Sparks at the Climate Science Fiction panel.

Scalzi and Cat Sparks at the Climate Science Fiction panel.

available in bookstores.

Cat Sparks talking clifi

Cat Sparks talking clifi

Keith Stevenson on the climate science fiction panel

Keith Stevenson on the climate science fiction panel

Glenda Larke talking climate science fiction

Glenda Larke talking climate science fiction

I attended some great panels. John Scalzi’s guest of honour speech was entertaining. He was talking to us while waiting to start his talk and then was 20 minutes into it before realising it had already started. Kylie Chan’s guest of honour talk was also fab and Anthony Peacey’s.

So many interesting panels. Keith Stevenson talked about constructed languages in his panel, using his novel in progress.

The panel I had the most stress about was Spec Fic Writing – Science Portrayal in Fiction on Sunday. It was a panel with John Scalzi, which is awe inspiring to say the least. Tsana was also on the panel and she’s a scientist. But I stressed for nothing. It was a really great panel and there was a lot of hand waving going on (people’s use of science in their writing). The conversation also covered some movies, particularly Interstellar.

The hotel, Pan Pacific, was lovely. Very flash. There was food available for lunch at a reasonable price. So well done to the Swancon 40 committee. I hope to go to a Swancon again in future.

Great opportunities exist at SF conventions to socialise and talk to other writers.

A few photos from dinner or just hanging.

Glenda Larke and Amanda Bridgeman

Glenda Larke and Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman

Glenda Larke and me

Glenda Larke and me

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I’ve known a new cover was coming but nothing could prepare me for the awesomeness of it.

Here is the resdesigned cover of Rayessa and the Space Pirates.

Rayessa And The Space PiratesIt’s so very cool.

Also, I’m not sure if I shared the blurb of Rae and Essa Space Adventures.

In Rayessa and the Space Pirates, Rae made a startling discovery about her past. Now her twin sister Essa has her own adventures to pursue.

Essa Gayens is starting to accept her sister Rae into her life, sharing a dorm room in their swanky private school on Earth. Smarter, savvier and more in touch with the world than Rae, Essa’s feelings of superiority and advantage are shaken when their mother goes missing, along with Rae’s boyfriend, Alwin.

When Rae takes off after them into outer space, Essa is spurred into action. Very soon, Essa is hot on her trail, sneaking out of school, bribing officials and begging Captain Thorn Hanover to take her on his ship.

Thorn is a hunk, and Essa is thrilled with the prospect of an interesting trip, but Thorn has no interest in a spoiled rich girl. Not only does he reject her advances, he sets her up on the chore roster and expects her to work for her passage.

Essa has never been anything but a pampered princess, but both Rae and Thorn are challenging her to dig deeper, to be more. But to aspire is to risk failure, and Essa has never really risked anything before. Can she start with her heart?

I also noticed that iBooks had Rae and Essa Space Adventures for 99 cents.

Here is a link the Australian iBooks store. Link.

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I’m very lucky to have Keith Stevenson visiting the blog today to talk about writing and his science fiction novel, Horizon.

keith_stevenson_colour_hi_res

Can you tell us a bit about your new novel?

Horizon is a science fiction thriller, where personal and political differences between a small group of space explorers play out in the cramped confines of a starship far from Earth, with repercussions for the future survival of the rest of humanity. I wanted to write something that set believable characters, with their own fears, weaknesses and biases, in an extraordinary situation while addressing the key issue of our time: climate change, how we respond – or fail to respond – to it and what that means for our future. It also has quite a bit of cool science about travelling through space and exploring new planets, but at its heart it’s an adventure story.

Keith can tell us a bit about yourself?

Well I’m originally from Scotland, but settled in Australia in 1989 and now live in Wollongong. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in some really cool projects, firstly as submissions manager and later editor of Aurealis Magazine, and organising convenor of the Aurealis Awards when they were still in their relative infancy; then founding my own publishing company coeur de lion with fellow author Andrew Macrae, publishing a lot of excellent Australian spec fic authors (and picking up more than a few awards); running the Terra Incognita speculative fiction podcast which featured the best Australian speculative fiction read by the authors who created it; and most recently launching Dimension6 the free and DRM-free electronic spec fic magazine.

All through that time, and even before, I’ve always been writing. I actually started writing horror stories for a class magazine in primary school. I’m a really slow writer, so I’ve only had a handful of short stories published in Aurealis Magazine, Agog! Fantastic Fiction, and ASIM. And Horizon took a lot of time to come together.

Tell us a bit about why you are write SF?

I love he hopefulness of science fiction, even when it’s SF where bad stuff happens, because at the very least it posits a future where humanity still survives. When I was a kid I read in a junior encyclopaedia that the sun would eventually swell up and destroy the Earth, killing everyone on the planet. That really upset me, regardless of the fact that fate was billions of years in the future. It was pretty soon after I discovered science fiction and realised that was our escape plan – the future imagined by SF writers is a future that has to come about in order to save us all.

Later as I read more and more, I understood that SF was also an ideal way to dissect and interrogate the present, magnifying trends or playing out ‘what ifs’ to demonstrate the underlying truth of the world around us. And it’s a genre that lends itself easily to amazing, adventurous stories. It’s an incredibly powerful and underrated genre. There should be more of it.

I understand that you have been working on this novel [for a long time?]. What kept you going back to this story?

First novels are pretty daunting. I was lucky because Horizon was my ‘project novel’ while I was studying Professional Writing Course, so my approach was very structured. I had to write a proposal for my tutor, exploring the ideas and forms I wanted to portray, and a detailed chapter by chapter synopsis, and then turn in 3,000 words every fortnight for group critting. By the end of it, I had 60,000 words of fairly robust text, which was a big leg up to getting the thing finished. Of course it still took a long time to finish, but I had developed the characters so much that I wanted to see how it all panned out for them, and how believable I could make the whole story. It’s the same with the space opera I’m writing, which I talk a little more about below. Those books have taken me years, but I have to go back to finish the story because I owe it to my protagonist. I’ve made a promise that I won’t leave him high and dry. But I’m also just enjoying writing a massive adventure.

Can you tell us a bit about what’s coming next (is there a sequel)?

Horizon was always envisaged as a standalone. There’s room for a prequel based on the events on Earth as well as a sequel, but I like the story as it is. The crew learn what’s happened on Earth while they’ve been in hibernation and the book ends with a very neat jumping off point that leaves the reader to imagine what might happen next. My focus was on the character interplay as part of the present action and how they deal with the dangers and threats that face them.

What are you working on at the moment?

Aha, well this is another long term project.  The Lenticular Series trilogy is a huge galaxy-spanning space opera with lots of alien species, space battles etc., which will hopefully see the light of day in a couple of years. It has at its core a really strong character study of a person (alien actually) who loses everything, achieves some sort of redemption but almost destroys himself in the process. That’s really given me a solid backbone to build lots of action and intrigue around and I’m really enjoying writing on such a big canvas.

What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).

I map out key plot beats, where I know characters will end up at point A, B, C on the storyline and then I tend to just write towards that beat. I prefer to write longhand for the first draft, because it really slows me down to think about the action as it’s unfolding. It also lets me follow impulses (and maybe stray off the main throughline to explore and develop related ideas). That’s allowed me to build in whole side plots I hadn’t considered in the planning stage. I pretty much go at that day in day out until I’ve written through to the end point – which may not be the end point I envisaged at the start. After that it’s into the rewrite phase, interrogating what I’ve written and trying to coalesce it and also look for missed opportunities, things that are not working, or aren’t fresh enough and so on. At some point I’ll sub the ms to Serapeum, which is a group of Australian writers who meet every year or so and is solely focused on novel development. If I please those guys, I know I’m on the right track. Then it’s more rewrites until I think it’s ready – to be put through the wringer by an editor, that is!

I’ve never encountered writer’s block. I tend to stop writing in the middle of a scene, so I know where to pick things up the next day. Richard Harland does something similar and he’s never been afflicted with it either.

What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?

I really like the discovery of first drafts. It’s almost dreamlike the way lines of dialogue float onto the page. But I also love the invention of revising, when you’ve just read something you wrote a while back and it suddenly falls into place with something else, creating possibilities you hadn’t considered before.

What part of writing do you find hardest?

Making it right. Work can always be improved and at some point you have to trust someone else – an editor – to help you do that. A fresh set of eyes really makes a difference and I am very much in awe of what a really good trade editor can do across a whole spectrum of things from making ideas gel better to really making the language sing. Authors are often too close to their work to do that for themselves.

What do you plan to work on next?

Well I need to redraft book 2 of The Lenticular and then start on drafting book 3. That will keep my busy for a long while, I suspect. After that I have an urban thriller I worked on as a screenplay with Paul Haines many years back. I’d love to dust that off and see if it can be turned into a novel.

Thank you, Keith. Those are some very insightful and indepth answers. Here is the book cover image and the blurb.

Horizon book cover

Horizon book cover

Thirty-four light years from Earth, the explorer ship Magellan is nearing its objective – the Iota Persei system. But when ship commander Cait Dyson wakes from deepsleep, she finds her co-pilot dead and the ship’s AI unresponsive. Cait works with the rest of her multinational crew to regain control of the ship, until they learn that Earth is facing total environmental collapse and their mission must change if humanity is to survive.

As tensions rise and personal and political agendas play out in the ship’s cramped confines, the crew finally reach the planet Horizon, where everything they know will be challenged.

____________________________________________

“Refreshingly plausible, politically savvy, and full of surprises, Horizon takes you on a harrowing thrill-ride through the depths of space and the darkness of the human heart.” – Sean Williams, New York Times bestselling author of the Astropolis and Twinmaker series

“Crackling science fiction with gorgeous trans-human and cybernetic trimmings. Keith Stevenson’s debut novel soars.” – Marianne De Pierres, award-winning author of the Parrish Plessis, Sentients of Orion and Peacemaker series
You can say hi to Keith on Twitter and Facebook and on his blog.

https://www.facebook.com/keithstevensonwriter

@stevenson_Keith

http://www.keithstevenson.com/

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One of the topics I thought was interesting was the types of characters one sees in fantasy and science fiction, that is that they are mostly white. While I’ve not read ‘all the fantasy’ out there, there are a number that I’ve read that do. Some exceptions to this are NK Jemison and Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin among others. My Dragon Wine series features people of mixed race. This is because it’s a post apocalyptic world and because of the destruction people intermarried to survive, so only a very few people would be all white or all black or Asian etc. My main protagonist Salinda is brown skinned and of mixed race. I didn’t consciously try to make my characters non-anglo it was just the result of the world setting.

Today I’ve invited Patty Jansen to the blog to talk about her use of non-anglo characters. Take it away Patty.

Patty Jansen

Patty Jansen

When Donna asked me to blog about what inspires me to use non-Anglo characters, my first thought was: do I need inspiration for that? They’re part of society, part of my life. They have pasts, and because I write SF, I’m interested in their futures. They’re people.

If we can say one thing about the future, it’s that it won’t be “more of the same” of what we have today. It has never been that way in all of humanity’s messy history. History is made up out of interwoven strands that sometimes don’t make sense until you understand the context.

Far too often, science fiction tells the author’s view of the future from a one-sided perspective, usually American, white and male. In my fiction, I strive to make it less monolithic. There are many segments of society whose histories deserve to be pondered on, extrapolated and told.

The majority of people in the world are non-Anglo. I use them in my fiction in hopefully the same way they are used in Harry Potter. For example, nowhere in all of the seven Harry Potter books is it mentioned out loud that the Patel twin sisters are Indian. Of course you can see that they’re Indian. Their name gives it away. So why point at it when it’s not a plot point, as if saying “Hey, LOOK! I’m using a non-Anglo character!!” That sort of pointing out, when done to any minority character, just annoys the crap out of me. As if minority characters are only allowed in a book when they’re a plot point. What rubbish.

Non-Anglo characters play an important role especially in my ISF-Allion interlinked series of novellas and novels. In this world, the future goes like this:

When various problems (disaster, wars, lack of money) forces western countries to scale down the space program, a group of normally disenfranchised people picks up the ball and runs with it: a conglomerate of applied sciences students who study in western countries, but who come from the poorest and most repressive/repressed countries and societies in the world. This group would never have gotten off the ground without two people: the brains and drive of Fatima “Ally” Al Alamein and the financial backing of heiress Marion Gluck. The company they form is Allion Aerospace, the name a combination of their names. They are the first to put a person on Mars. That person is Chandra Lee, a woman, half Indian, half Chinese, not a drop of western blood in sight. The company with a 90% female workforce operates on a shoestring budget (relatively speaking) and makes huge strides because it attracts smart people for whom even the risk of dying in a Mars mission is better than their current lack of opportunities. Within a short time span, Allion has a huge work force, space bases and some ingenious hardware.

Meanwhile the western countries and their International Space Force are forced to do a huge catch-up mission. Their mantra is big and cumbersome, and when they can’t find enough people to crew their huge space stations, they resort to “resettling” people from the poorest, dilapidated cities in the world at that time. They are the people from low-lying areas (Jakarta, Bangladesh) and victims of desertification in India/Pakistan and Africa. Parts of the world that, even today, white men in power do not care about. Here we have colonial behaviour all over again.

These two groups of non-Anglo characters end up on opposite sides of the spectrum. The Allion women, mostly Africans, Indians, Chinese and Arabs and their high-controlled, high-tech environment, versus the raw hardship of the displaced mining workers. While the ISF methods sound akin to slavery, Allion has some very “interesting” ideas (not in a good way) about what constitutes a human being and also about free choice and privacy. There are no angels in this world.

Shifting Reality is a novel that takes place on a giant space station at Epsilon Eridani, amongst second and third generation forced migrants from the slums of Jakarta. Seventy years after their forced departure from Indonesia, they’re no longer Indonesian, but they’ve morphed into something else through circumstance and the tyranny of distance.

I did a lot of reading to construct this society. It is not faithfully cultural and was never intended to be. But there are plenty of weird, quirky and mostly just plain different customs that have morphed into a multi-pronged, diverse Indonesian-based cultural melting pot. There are the political groups, the gossipy block associations where ground-level politics happens between men who want power and old women who hold said power, there are the gay and transvestite bars, there are the religious hypertechs, where men and women both wear face veils, who abstain from “pleasure” and who are a fertile breeding ground for unusual technological, uhm, solutions, including hacking, spyware and other illegal stuff. While the cliché has us see Indonesians visit temples, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and my characters adhere to the Indonesian brand of Islam which is fairly relaxed and has a good deal of traditional stuff thrown in. Did you know that the spread of Islam to Indonesia dates back to the 1400s?

I wanted to construct a possible future culture that was not based on western ideology and western values. Because often when writers use non-Anglo characters, they still operate in an Anglo cultural framework. I’d encourage other writers to think beyond their borders. Not only is not every person who matters in the world Anglo, not all cultures aspire to be Anglo either.

Patty Jansen is an author of 15 novels and numerous short works of science fiction and fantasy. Find out more about Patty’s fiction here. Find out more about the novel Shifting Reality here. Patty is also on twitter and Facebook and talks about writing, photography and other random things on her blog Must Use Bigger Elephants.

ShiftingRealityprint

 

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