Blog Books Nightstand

VESSEL by Lisa A. Nichols

After a 113-page marathon Sunday and Monday evenings, I finished my first book read of 2020. VESSEL (published in 2019) was a very enjoyable debut novel by Lisa A. Nichols. Her prose is fluid and very efficient (not too much, not too little) and her sense of mystery, suspense and storytelling structure are impressive for a first-time novelist; from a storytelling and craft standpoint I thought I was reading a veteran writer. I think the big reveal at the heart of the mystery was compelling enough. As a page-turner just under 300 pages, it has an open-ended ending that’s totally begging for a sequel, one  I eagerly await. Apparently the marketing team did the book a disservice by comparing it to THE MARTIAN or DARK MATTER because I’ve seen some grumblings on Goodreads citing the lack of hard sci-fi, leaving that particular kind of SF reader a little underwhelmed by the somewhat ‘lite’ sci-fi content the story offers. That did not bother me at all, as I don’t need all the technical jargon to get me into a sci-fi story. There was plenty of astronaut and NASA info and intrigue to ground the story in that world. Yet it is fair to say the story is more character-driven than the you’d probably expect from a typical science fiction novel. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

The summary follows:

An astronaut returns to Earth after losing her entire crew to an inexplicable disaster, but is her version of what happened in space the truth? Or is there more to the story…A tense, psychological thriller perfect for fans of Dark Matter and The Martian.

After Catherine Wells’s ship experiences a deadly incident in deep space and loses contact with NASA, the entire world believes her dead. Miraculously—and mysteriously—she survived, but with little memory of what happened. Her reentry after a decade away is a turbulent one: her husband has moved on with another woman and the young daughter she left behind has grown into a teenager she barely recognizes. Catherine, too, is different. The long years alone changed her, and as she readjusts to being home, sometimes she feels disconnected and even, at times, deep rage toward her family and colleagues. There are periods of time she can’t account for, too, and she begins waking up in increasingly strange and worrisome locations, like restricted areas of NASA. Suddenly she’s questioning everything that happened up in space: how her crewmates died, how she survived, and now, what’s happening to her back on Earth.

Smart, gripping, and compelling, this page-turning sci-fi thriller will leave you breathless.



Blog Guest Blog Interview Q&A Question Them

Author Q&A with Jennifer Macaire – Part 3

cropped-mesite1Jennifer Macaire is an expat wife, mother and novelist living in France. The following is Part Three of a trilogy of weekly Q&As that lead up to today’s re-release of her novel The Road to Alexander, Book One of the epic Time for Alexander series of novels. A separate post with an excerpt of the novel follows this sessions as well (link below).

Q: So this book deals with time-travel, typically a device of science-fiction, but that aspect is rather low-key here. For those curious, and without giving too much away, can you describe your creative use of the concept?

Time-travel fascinates me – and not only for this book, but for everyday things. When I drop a glass and it smashes on the floor, I try to imagine it floating back up and coming together like one of those slow-motion films played backward. I wish I could go back and see people I’ve known, redo certain things differently . . . it’s sort of a constant background noise to my life. So it wasn’t a surprise that I made it the backbone of the story. As for the science, I used quartz for the time transmission and lightning for the power. It’s not all that farfetched. Something has to move fast, and our bodies are frail things. In order to time travel, they have to be unraveled and recomposed – my heroine wonders briefly about arriving with her head on backwards, but even our DNA is programmed so that everything will go back to its correct place. Hopefully. Luckily for me, time-travel hasn’t been invented yet, so I can pretty much do as I like. And as the time-sender scientist says dryly to Ashley, “You wouldn’t understand anyway.” My heroine is a journalist, not a scientist, so she has to trust that everything will turn out all right.

Q: I’ve counted over two dozen books published in your oeuvre. All in roughly, what 15 years? And that’s with so many more to come! That’s quite prolific. What’s your secret to staying on task – do you have a daily routine or specific writing regimen when working on a project?

I wish I had a regular writing routine, but I don’t. However, when I get the seed of a story and it germinates, nothing can stop me from writing it. I can write anywhere, anytime. Nothing bothers me – television blaring, kids fighting, dog barking, dinner burning . . . I’ve written through all that and worse to finish a story.

Q: What’s your next project after the release of all seven books in the Time for Alexander series?

I have two or three ideas I’d like to explore. One is a YA book, with as a hero a boy in a wheelchair. I have lots of research to do in order to start writing it, however. Another idea I had is another time-travel book, this time with a male protagonist who finds himself in the Asian steppes with a Scythian princess. I’m counting on an archeologist/anthropologist friend of mine to help out with it.

Q: I’ll let you go with this last question about the novel you’re releasing TODAY. Book One ends with a scene between our heroine Ashley and the man himself, Alexander The Great, on a quiet yet ominous note, a kind of calm before a coming storm. Can you give us a tease of the first sequel in the series after The Road to Alexander?

In Book Two: Legends of Persia, Alexander is on the most dangerous and difficult part of his fight to recapture the crown. It was a hard book to write, because I tried as much as possible to keep the timetable of his actual battles and travels around Persia. I did, however, take liberties with history. His time-travelling wife, Ashley, knows when he will die, but she doesn’t dare do anything to change things. She hasn’t yet made the decision to save him, so she just tries to savor each instant and live her life with Alexander to the fullest. The book takes Alexander’s army across the mountains and rivers of ancient Bactria. One of my favorite parts is just when the army reaches the top of the pass through the mountains:

Some men were afraid to venture over the rise, believing that the ends of the earth were right there. Even Alexander, whose unquenchable enthusiasm for adventure had led him this far, seemed unsure of himself. He wrapped his arm around his stallion’s neck, and together they walked towards the summit. We stood back. It seemed fitting.

The two figures stood silhouetted against the monstrous sky. The sun was just starting to set, and the rising moon shone on the opposite horizon. It seemed as if he were alone on the top of the earth with only his horse, the sun, and the moon for company. Then he turned to face us, and he raised both arms in triumph. The way was clear. He’d gotten through. The road to Bactria was open. We poured through the pass in a trickle, then a rush as the men hurried to see the marvels that were beyond the mountains.

I was disappointed. It looked like the same road we’d taken, only downhill – but it was downhill, and the rest of the march was made singing. We sang although we were starving. No one had eaten in two days. The meat was gone, the grain and bread were gone, the onions and garlic were gone, and the soldiers chewed whatever edible plants they could find to assuage their hunger. We had no more water, and our pack animals groaned and staggered, but none fell. Perhaps they scented the grass in the fertile valleys around the Kunduz.

We made camp by nightfall. We were ankle-deep in grass. The next day we were knee-deep, and by evening there were fires, and a real camp was being built on the banks of a fast moving mountain brook.

~ (bonus excerpt from Book Two: Legends of Persia, out later this year) ~

And there you have it. This concludes the author Q&A leading up to today’s release of The Road to Alexander from Accent PressNow read the third and final excerpt here. And be sure to check the book out via these handy links: (US) (UK).


~ About the Author ~

Jennifer Macaire is an American living in Paris. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories. Her short stories have been published by Three Rivers Press, Nothing But Red, The Bear Deluxe, and The Vestal Review, among others. One of her short stories was nominated for the Push Cart Prize (Honey on Your Skin) and is now being made into a film. Her short story ‘There be Gheckos’ won the Harper Collins /3 AM flash fiction prize.


Author Q&A with Jennifer Macaire – Part 1

The Road to Alexander – 1st Excerpt | Jennifer Macaire

Author Q&A with Jennifer Macaire – Part 2

The Road to Alexander – 2nd Excerpt | Jennifer Macaire

Blog Bookworm Ruckus Now Reading

Now Reading: The Road to Alexander

~ Bookworm Ruckus | 2.19.17 ~

Something I’ve always dug is alternate history. That’s exactly what my friend Jennifer Macaire’s Time for Alexander series of novels is — a time-traveling trip through an altered history in which a modern  woman from our time becomes the object of Alexander the Great’s affections.

Book One in the series, The Road to Alexander is the first to be remastered and reissued digitally worldwide on March 9th, via Accent Press. Available for pre-order now. (US) (UK)

I’ve invited Mrs. Macaire to chat about and share excerpts of this intriguing novel here on the blog, so make sure to be on the lookout for that later this week on Thursday.


Guest Blog Writing Advice

Guest Blog: 7 Writing Rules For Fiction (from A Writer’s Path via Kate Foster)

Couldn’t have made a better list myself.

A Writer's Path


by Kate Foster


Overwhelmed by fiction-writing advice? Me too, and I’m an editor as well as a writer. Everyone and anyone who has a blog or website seems to be keen on throwing in their penny’s worth. A lot of it is genuinely good advice. But what works for them won’t necessarily be right for you.

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Blog Journals The Morning Muse

The Morning Muse 2 | Write It Forward

I’ve been writing fiction off-and-on for the better part of 22 years and I keep EVERYTHING.  I think historically I’ve not deliberately trashed anything I’ve written, good, bad or ugly, and have only lost two serious pieces that I regret losing, likely after a PC upgrade a decade-and-a-half back.  I remember the names of the stories, “Ride” and “Scars”; the latter one thankfully re-manifested itself two years ago in the form of lyrics for a song.

That said, I’m happy to’ve written forward viable words for my novel, words that at the time  they were first typed up years ago did not seem to quite fit into the main narrative.  It was more like exercise writing or background material; non-chapter work that simply allowed me to brainstorm in free-form to explore the characters and the world they occupied, getting the chronology of past events straight in the overall timeline, making sure character motivations were solid, etc.

For this project I had written a “bible”, some 6000 words worth of reference and supplemental material to help me navigate the tricky science of this trans-human concept of vampires.  I worked tirelessly to strip away all the usual elements and played-out tropes of traditional vampire fiction, burning away the supernatural in favor of the biological and scientific.

Despite essentially starting from the beginning again, I have so much to play with all because I did a hefty amount of “pre-narrative” writing some years back, as well as actual narrative material that will be used for chapters in the loosely re-outlined Book One.  Although I’m not surprised that it pays to write it forward, I am certainly glad it does.

Update Working Update Writing

Project: Blood-Borne

28368403-vector-silhouette-of-a-man-sitting-at-a-computer-on-a-white-backgroundThat’s not the actual title, but rather a codename, though in 2009 it was briefly one of the working titles, along with BloodwerksI abandoned both of those long ago and have since arrived at an even more apt and cool and unique title for it, one I’ve never seen used before for anything, and thus have been sitting on it for years and have told it to no one, ’cause I’m cagey like thatIn fact, the titles for the other two are pretty darn neat and perfect as well.  So what’s the trilogy about?  Well, without getting all spoilery, let’s just suffice it to say that rather than a supernatural take, it’s a science-fiction approach to the advent of vampires through a modern lens.  There’s also a different approach to the subgenre I’m taking that I’ve not seen anyone else take yet (and I’ve been researching for years), but to reveal that would be real spoilery.  I offer this intel: my saga deals with living, biological, human vampires, some of which are natural-born.  It’s all made possible by a blood-borne infectious virus that causes their vampiric conditions and grants them trans-human abilities.  At the heart of the story are these concepts: love, family and legacy. My main character, at least in Book One, is an Austrian female vampire named Mathilde.  The first book deals with her reawakening and quest to recover, reclaim and ultimately save the family she’s lost during her long involuntary slumber.  Never take lightly the vengeance of a woman robbed of her one true love (Sebastian) and her two children (whose identities and whereabouts are concealed from her), especially when that woman has the augmented trans-human abilities of a vampire.  That’s about as much as I can share of the simple core that is surrounded by a complex web of historical events, intrigue, secrecy, deception, manhunts, genocidal massacres, blood drinking and love (hopefully) conquering all.  I can’t wait to get back to it tonight.  I think I’ll run a daybook here as well to chronicle my productivity and progress — help keep myself publicly accountable, if nothing else.

Y’all be good to one another.


Update Working Update

Novel. Now!

28368403-vector-silhouette-of-a-man-sitting-at-a-computer-on-a-white-backgroundAt long last I’m finally returning to committed work on what I have codenamed Project: Blood-Borne.  That’s the umbrella codename for a long-gestating trilogy of novels I initially conceived just days before Halloween in 2009.  Yeah, I know, that was a long ass time ago (jaysis, nearly 6 years), but I…I can explain.  Actually, the one true, legitimate excuse is simply I was not quite the writer and visionary I needed to be yet to fully take on this huge world I’ve created.  When I finally decided to do my own little take on vampires, I knew I couldn’t do so without deliberately taking a stark departure from all (or at least most) of what had come before.  That required a bit of research of both vampire fiction and nonfiction.  So my particular conception, complex as it is, needed to marinate while I continued to ponder the cast of characters, their roles and motivations, and all the nooks and crannies I needed to successfully navigate the saga when ready. I thought that time was going to be last summer, but upon more pondering I made major changes to the narrative approach that required additional time to simmer.  I’m ready now.  Finally.

Although Operation: Remember Me is only half wrapped up, I’m sticking with my plan to resume chapter work at the top of this post-Independence Day week.  It begins tonight.  In a separate post later, probably tomorrow, I will reveal some details about the trilogy.

Please wish me the best of luck on navigating the turbulent waters of novel writing while working a day job, raising a family and playing in a band.