Friday, March 07, 2008

On-line Class: How to Try a Murder

*********************PERMISSION TO FORWARD*********************

Join Wine Country Romance Writers, RWA, as we learn HOW TO TRY A MURDER.

Instructor: Lucinda Schroeder
Date: April: 4/7 - 5/2 ** 4 weeks ** $20/$25
Register by mail or online -- info at:

The cops know they have the right villain and justice will be served. But, not so fast! The American judicial system is full of more holes than cheesecloth, making it quite possible for the villain to go free. Learn about the caveats of arrests, search warrant affidavits, indictments, grand jury proceedings, evidence, trial preparation, jury selection and strategies used by both the defense and prosecution. Don't be guilty of missing this fact-packed class!

Lucinda Delaney Schroeder has a BA in Criminology and is a retired federal agent who during her thirty-year career conducted numerous undercover investigations and was the only female member a specialized undercover unit. She has taught undercover techniques to other agents at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, GA and continues to train law enforcement officers through her private business "Bulletproof Covert Identities." She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Lucinda is the author of "A Hunt for Justice," (Lyons Press) a true story of one her undercover cases in Alaska, in which clever deception was her only protection.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Interview with Jim C. Hines

Publisher's Weekly says: Hines sidesteps the main question facing elvers—WWTD, or What would Tolkien do?—with a wink and his usual snort. His goofy elves, orcs, trolls, dwarves, humans and even an evil tree conjure laughter, not screams. Jig Dragonslayer might have a dash of hobbit in him as he reluctantly dashes into his latest adventure (after Goblin Hero): he would much rather stay home in a comfy cave, hanging out with Smudge, his fire-spider, or Relka, a most excellent cook. But alas, they're all pressed into a human/elf war against Billa the Bloody, a monstrous orc who'll do anything to win, even if it means killing her army and human Princess Genevieve's troops fighting for Wendel, king of Adenkar. Luckily, Jig has a secret weapon thanks to Tymalous Shadowstar, a Forgotten God who communicates with him telepathically. Shadowstar would sacrifice himself for his little goblin priest, but Jig's amazing courage may not make that necessary. Readers will need familiarity with earlier books in the series, but Hines's funny bone is sharp and YA-friendly. (Mar.)

Readers have dubbed Jim C. Hines the Goblin King. His third novel Goblin War has just been released in the U.S. His goblins are also showing up in France, Germany, Russia, and several other nations. The books have earned praise from the likes of Julie Czerneda, Ed Greenwood, and even Wil Wheaton, who called Goblin Quest "too f***ing cool for words!"

But here's what he has to say for himself:

What was your inspiration for writing Goblin War?

It's the unwritten law of fantasy. I had written two goblin books, but as a fantasy author, I had no choice. I Must Write Trilogies.

There were things I wanted to accomplish with the third book, of course. In the first two books, Jig is constantly struggling to protect himself from adventurers and heroes, not to mention his fellow goblins. This time, I wanted to bring that struggled to some sort of resolution. This is an all-or-nothing adventure. If Jig succeeds, he'll be able to keep himself and his fellow goblins safe for years. But if he fails, he's going to fail big.

There were other factors as well. Jig' and Smudge are a lot of fun to write about ... my readers enjoy him and wanted more ... perhaps most importantly, DAW was willing to pay me for a third book!

Why did you decide to make Jig a goblin?

I wanted to take on the fantasy genre from the monsters' point of view. I've seen it done a few times before, Shrek being one of the more famous examples, but I never felt like they got it right. Shrek is really just a big, gross, socially awkward human. We never see anything about his family, his culture, or his background, and his motivations are completely human.

I also thought the tougher monsters had it too easy. Sure, anyone can survive an adventure when you're big enough to recycle armored knights and punch dragons in the face. So I decided to go with the underdogs, and you don't get much lower than goblins.

What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

You wouldn't think a humorous fantasy would require much research. At least, I wouldn't have until I got started. But from day one, I was e-mailing a geologist for information on cave formations, looking up cooking sites to come up with good goblin recipes, double-checking armor and weaponry ... for Goblin War, I spent a fair amount of time trying to make sure my armies were using sensible formations and tactics.

Goblin War also required me to go back and re-read The Giving Tree. And no, I'm not going to explain that one.

Are there any interesting scenes or ideas that didn't make it into the final book?

The biggest thing was a romance between Jig and one of his fellow goblins. I tried ... I really tried to make it work. I think I'm a pretty good writer, but I just couldn't pull it off. Maybe it's self-preservation, but my brain refused to go there. Much to the disappointment of my agent, who was hoping for a fourth book called "Jig gets Jiggy."

The first draft also gave Jig a magical elf cloak, a la Lord of the Rings, but I kept giving myself flashbacks to Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. Besides, invisibility would have made Jig's life far too easy.

Oh, and the scene where we learn that Smudge the fire-spider is gay didn't fly. I guess my publisher doesn't think the world was ready for homosexual spiders.

What are you writing now?

DAW recently bought three more books from me in a new series. The first book is called The Stepsister Scheme, and should show up in January of 2009. I just finished revising that book, and have started on the rewrite of The Mermaid's Madness. The books are basically my response to the overcommercializiation of the fairy tale princess. My princesses come from the older fairy tales, which means these are some very conflicted characters with pretty dark backstories. I basically did a mash-up of those old fairy tales and Charlie's Angels.

Let's just say my version of Sleeping Beauty can kill you with a spoon.

This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

There are the first two goblin books, Goblin Quest and Goblin Hero. All three are a lot of fun, particularly if you're a fantasy fan, because you'll catch a lot more of the jokes. I've also written close to 40 short stories. (Well, I've written a lot more than that, but I've sold close to 40. Big difference.) A fair amount of the short fiction is humorous sword and sorcery, but there's some serious stuff as well. I was quite happy to make the preliminary Nebula ballot this year for one of the serious stories, even though I got knocked out of the running for the finals.

Thanks for stopping by, Jim! Your books sound hillarious. I'm truly disappointed the world isn't ready for a gay spider.... I hope the readers of my blog will take this opportunity to check out you and your novels. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Interview with Mike Brotherton

The human colony on the planet Argo has long explored and exploited the technology left behind by an extinct alien race. But then an archaeology team accidentally activates a terrible weapon: a weapon that will destroy the entire colony, and its star, if they cannot deactivate it. Evidence at the site suggests that the weapon was created for the ancient Argonauts by another race, a race of traders. The archaeologists discover a map of their interstellar trading empire, and the coordinates of their main trading station. Although the information is over a million years out of date, the only hope for Argo is to send a ship and crew into the unknown, to find the traders—or anyone who can help them find a way to shut down the weapon.

Mike Brotherton is a hard science fiction writer publishing novels with Tor. His latest, Spider Star, is being released on March 4, 2008. In addition to being a writer, he's a professor of astronomy at the University of Wyoming, an observer who studies quasars with the Hubble Space Telescope and other facilities on and above the Earth. His webpage is

What is the premise of the new novel?

It's a story about an interstellar colony on the planet Argo orbiting Pollux, and what happens when the people there accidentally set off a doomsday weapon left behind by the original inhabitants of their system. The original technology behind the weapon came from an even more advanced alien species living in something referred to as the "Spider Star." There are two main protagonists. The first is an older man, Frank Klingston, with a family who is drafted into the mission given his previous experience as the only human to ever encounter living intelligent aliens. The other is a young hotshot, Manuel Rusk, who was supposed to head off the next interstellar exploration mission and is partially responsible for setting off the weapon.

What was your inspiration for writing Spider Star?

I was finishing up my first novel, Star Dragon, and was chatting with a friend at a review panel for the National Science Foundation. He told me about some papers by David Eichler, a theoretical astrophysicist, hypothesizing the concept of planets made of dark matter that might be found around neutron stars. Well, that was a pretty cool idea and originally I was just going to write a short story of some kind but never got around to it. By the time I was ready to write about this idea, it had grown to novel size and had accumulated a lot of associations. I'm always looking to do something exotic, leaning on my professional expertise for unique situations or environments, that haven't been done a million times already. The setting of Spider Star is unique, I believe, but a setting no matter how great doesn't make a story on its own. Story ideas kind of grow piecemeal for me, where one good idea isn't enough but when it hooks up with two or three other ideas suddenly a story crystallizes. It's like the ideas are amino acids floating around and my mind is the enzyme that assembles them when it finds the right combination.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

While I don't think so-called "hard" science fiction should be hard to read, it can be hard to write. My current operational definition is fiction that requires a calculator. I had to do a bunch of ugly calculations and estimates to world build, and then find engineering/plot solutions when the physics didn't quite work out the way I wanted for the world building. Some of the things were rather complicated and I lucked out that I found a couple of papers doing most of them for me, as I would have resorted to writing computer code to be sure what I was envisioning was plausible. I'm talking around this because I don't want to spoil too much.

I also leaned on the stories of Jason and the Argonauts and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness for some layers of mythology that seemed to resonate with the plot and themes of the book. Happy accidents do occur when symbolism and motifs crop up on their own, but I usually try to put some in intentionally to reinforce points I'm trying to make and the mood I'm trying to establish.

What are you trying to do with your science fiction? Does it have a purpose beyond telling an entertaining story?

Yes, ideally. I think science fiction at it's best is great literature. It shows a side of humanity in the face of new ideas or new circumstances that cannot be done with mainstream work. What does it mean to evolve past our current state? What does it mean to us to confront non-human intelligence? Are we great, as complex and intelligent life, in the face of a largely lifeless universe, or insignificant before the near infinity of space and time?

I also try to get as much of my science right as possible, although I do push the limits and sometimes just avoid the impossible while embracing the unlikely (if it's interesting enough). I like to think I'm educating people a little about astronomy and physics and perhaps inspiring people to study science, the way I was inspired by Star Trek and other science fiction I encountered growing up.

Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

That's a difficult question because I have so many! My favorites growing up and then through college were Philip Jose Farmer, Joe Haldeman, Robert Heinlein, Fred Pohl, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, David Brin, Larry Niven, Gregory Benford, and Roger Zelazny. More recently I've been a big fan of Dan Simmons, Nancy Kress, Michael Swanwick, Jack McDevitt, Eric Nylund, Robert Charles Wilson, Vernor Vinge, and Kurt Vonnegut (better late than never). I think there's a lot of great books being written and I'm happy to be able to contribute mine.

Thanks to Mike Brotherton for dropping by to answer a few questions and promote his newest book which is available TODAY (March 4). If your curiosity was piqued by what you read here, please go out and find yourself a copy of SPIDER STAR!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Astro Alert: Mars in Cancer

Exciting new planetary happenings brought to you by

On September 8, 2007, the warrior planet Mars entered Cancer, the sign of home and family. It's been a wild ride! The heat of this flame touched on matters concerning family as well as decisions affecting property and mortgages, loans and debts. Then, Mars turned retrograde on November 15, and it was time to review -- and perhaps revise -- plans set in motion. By January 30, Mars turned direct in chatty Gemini, and you finally you had the opportunity to get traction on various projects and initiatives.

Now, as Mars head back into homebody Cancer on March 4, you should have a good handle on how you want to approach the various issues that have competed for your attention over the past few months.