Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Breakdown (Dark Road, Book 1) by Bruno Miller

Release date: May 6, 2018
Subgenre: Post-apocalyptic

About Breakdown:


Do you have what it takes to survive?
Ben Davis was prepared for disaster. He just didn’t know it would come so soon.

He and his teenage son, Joel, are miles deep in the backcountry of the San Juan Mountains when high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic detonations light up the pre-dawn sky. Ben, Joel, and their dog, Gunner, must make their way home – or to whatever’s left of it – on foot.

Without the ability to communicate with his ex-wife in Maryland, Ben has no idea if Joel’s brother and sister are okay. The two decide they have no options but to head East. Before their journey begins, they venture into town to check Ben’s outdoor store for supplies and discover one of Joel’s classmates, Allie, alone and in desperate need of help.

When Ben realizes Allie’s flight attendant mother is most likely dead and her father lives in Pittsburgh, he knows he has to take her with them. Ben must use the skills he learned as an Army Ranger many years ago to survive the post-apocalyptic world they now live in.

Can he keep himself and two teenagers safe as they navigate the dark and dangerous road ahead?




Just then another explosion to the south, this time much closer. Out of their tents, both of them now had a clear view. A bright orange flash overwhelmed the valley for a split second as Ben threw up his hand to cover his face from the sudden blast of light.
“Don’t look at it!” Ben shouted.
A deep bass rumbled up the valley and momentarily canceled out all other sound, followed a few seconds later by a warm breeze the likes of which Ben had never felt in the mountains before. The bright flash of light had diminished to a pale orange glow that seemed to be floating within a distant massive cloud that consisted of an ominous column of fire and blackness that reached well into the atmosphere where it became encircled by a giant orange glowing ball of fire and smoke mixed with what seemed like lightning.
They both stood there watching in silence for what felt like an eternity before either one of them said anything.
This can’t be happening, Ben thought to himself, they actually did it.
“Dad, uh, what’s going on? What is it?” Joel asked.
“Son, I think we just witnessed a nuclear explosion,” Ben said solemnly. “I’m just guessing, but I would say that last one was over Vegas or maybe Albuquerque and the one before it that I caught the end of when I came out of the tent looked to be in the direction of Denver. I… I… I think they’re EMPs, Joel. High altitude nukes.” He ran his hand through his slightly graying brown hair.
“Well, what are we going to do?” Joel asked in disbelief.
“We’re going to pack up our stuff and get home as quickly as possible and then plan our next move from there,” Ben said, almost machine-like.
Realizing how he probably sounded to his son he took a couple steps towards him and put his arm around Joel as he pulled him close.
“We’ll figure it out, we’ll be all right. We have enough supplies at home to last a long time and even more down at the store if we need them.” Ben hoped he sounded reassuring to his son, because he wasn’t sure he believed his own words.




About Bruno Miller:

Bruno Miller is the author of the Dark Road series. He’s a military vet who likes to spend his downtime hanging out with his wife and kids, or getting in some range time. He believes in being prepared for any situation.


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Monday, May 21, 2018

Hunter and Hunted (In Love and War, Book 9) by Cora Buhlert

Release date: May 11, 2018
Subgenre: Space Opera Romance, Cozy Space Opera

About Hunter and Hunted:

Once, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

On their way back from a mission, Anjali and Mikhail are ambushed by a squad of bounty hunters. Wounded and hunted through a frozen landscape, they find shelter in a mountain lodge.

But their pursuers are still out there, tracking them. And with Anjali too injured to fight, Mikhail must face down seven bounty hunters on his own…

This is a novella of 21000 words or approx. 75 print pages in the "In Love and War" series, but may be read as a standalone.



I. Snow Ride

A ground glider shot across the snow-covered surface of the independent rim world of Harketon, en route from the luxury resort of Furuholmen back to the planet’s main spaceport.
The glider was small, a two-seater. Beneath the transparent canopy, the passengers, a man and a woman, sat huddled together in forced proximity. Not that either of them minded. After all, they’d spent the better part of the last year in close proximity, so that by now it was no longer forced, even if it had started out as less than voluntary.
The man was tall, with pale skin, striking blue eyes and long dark hair that he wore tied back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. He was clad all in black, a bright blue scarf the only flash of colour. This was Captain Mikhail Alexeievich Grikov, formerly of the Republican Special Commando Forces, now wanted as a deserter and traitor.
The woman by his side was a good head shorter, with brown skin, dark eyes and glossy black hair that fell down her back in gentle waves. She was clad in grey utility pants and a light blue sweater, topped with a shawl in a somewhat darker tone of blue. This was Lieutenant Anjali Patel, formerly of the Imperial Shakyri Expeditionary Corps, now also wanted as a deserter and traitor.
Almost a year ago now, Anjali and Mikhail had met during a mission. And even though their respective governments were at war with each other and had been for eighty-eight years now, Anjali and Mikhail fell in love and decided to run away together, leaving behind the only lives they’d ever known. They’d fled to the independent worlds on the galactic rim, eking out a living as mercenaries, doing any odd jobs that required their particular skills. And today, one of those jobs had brought them to Harketon.
The mission in question was a simple courier job. Deliver a sealed box containing some data crystals to a man called Norland, who was currently on vacation in Furuholmen, on behalf of a smuggler captain called Pekkalainen and return to Pekkalainen’s ship, the Jewel of Leskinen, in under ninety-six hours. All expenses paid, no questions asked. As jobs went, this one was as good as it got.
“Now that…” Anjali remarked, “…was almost too easy. Especially since we’ve still got…” She checked her wrist unit. “…almost forty-four hours until the Jewel of Leskinen leaves port.”
Mikhail briefly looked up from the controls. He was flying, because he had more experience with this particular glider model, a Republican manufactured Astral Avalanche.
“Would you rather have something go wrong?” he asked.
“No, but we could’ve spent another night in Furuholmen, especially since the client is paying all our expenses.”
Mikhail flashed her a quick smile. “Yes, the those thermal baths and the sauna were really nice.”
“Though they would have been even nicer without potbellied gangsters,” Anjali said with a shudder. Cause Norland, the recipient of the data crystals, was not the sort of person you wanted to see dressed only in a towel.
“But actually, I was thinking more of the hotel room…” she added, “…and particularly of the bed.”
By now, Anjali and Mikhail were both used to living and sleeping rough. After all, they’d been on the run for the better part of a year now and soldiers for most of their lives before that. That meant hard bunks, cramped barracks, tiny cabins or sometimes just a rough shelter and a sleeping bag on the ground.
Most of the time, Anjali did not mind. This was the life she’d chosen for herself, after all. But nonetheless, she appreciated a proper bed with a good mattress, fluffy pillows and a soft blanket on occasion. And the bed in the hotel room they’d shared in Furuholmen had all that and more.
Mikhail’s smile broadened, while his cheeks flushed ever so slightly. “Yes, that bed was… very nice indeed.”
Anjali reached out, her hand brushing against his. “And we put it to some very good use, didn’t we?”
Mikhail smiled at the memory and focussed his full attention on the controls again, as he piloted the glider through a narrow and winding canyon.
After a few kilometres, the canyon ended and the glider shot out onto a pleasant snow-covered slope lined with clusters of bluish trees.
“I’ve been thinking,” Mikhail said, “Maybe, once we’ve made it back to the ship and collected the rest of our payment, we could check into a hotel at the spaceport for a few nights. A proper hotel and not one of the flophouses we normally use.”
“Sounds tempting.” And it did. “But we don’t have the money for this. We need new power-packs and grenades and ammo for my Marcasona Mark IV sniper rifle and nano booster shots and…”
Mikhail put his hand on top of Anjali’s, silencing her. “I know. I just want to do right by you, want to give you the life you deserve, at least for a little while.”
“It’s all right. I have everything I could ever want.” Though a big soft bed now and then would be nice.
“Maybe, when once we’ve gotten all the supplies we need and we still have some money left over, we could check into a nicer hotel for a night or two,” Mikhail said.
Anjali did not reply, because at just this moment something attracted her attention. A gleam in a copse of trees, like sunlight striking the sight of a rifle.
Barely a second later, the drive exploded and the glider spiralled out of control straight into a snowdrift.

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About the In Love and War series:


About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. 
Cora has been writing, since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. She is the author of the Silencer series of pulp style thrillers, the Shattered Empire space opera series, the In Love and War science fiction romance series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries and plenty of standalone stories in multiple genres. When Cora is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.


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Sunday, May 20, 2018

SFF Book Bonanza 99 Cent Promo

Dean F. Wilson is running a 99 cent cross promo for science fiction and fantasy novels. There are more than 60 books in various subgenre available for 99 cents each.

The promo runs from May 21 to May 27, i.e. all week. 

It's the ideal way to fill up your e-reader and virtual TBR pile and discover some new authors and series to love. 

For a list of participating books click here!



Saturday, May 19, 2018

Interview with Kate Coe, author of Desert Sands and Silence

Today the Speculative Fiction Showcase have great pleasure in interviewing Kate Coe, whose new release, Desert Sands and Silence, we featured on May 5th.

Tell us a bit about the world of Green Skies.
It’s a world of magic and technology; I wanted to explore a place where technology was the interloper, and where inventors were the ones breaking the mould - but also a place where those inventors were using everything to hand, and that included magic! I settled on a vaguely Renaissance-era technology, so there’s clockwork, rudimentary electricity, flying machines...but you have to be a Mage to fly, the electricity is harvested from lightning, and the clockwork runs the wagons! And within that, I wanted to explore the political tensions between countries, but also the people caught in the middle of those tensions, and the stories of how simple choices and events could change wider movements.
It’s also been described as “Studio Ghibli” and “delightful”, which I think it is; the world has darker edges, but it’s meant to be a lighter read, and a story that leaves you feeling a little bit more hopeful.

Desert Sands and Silence is your sixth book in the series. Where does it stand in relation to its predecessors?
The first three books in the GreenSky series are a trilogy; every book after that is stand-alone, although they are also linear, so the events follow on from each other. As I was writing the first three, I knew that I wanted to explore more of the characters that don’t make it front-and-centre; I wanted to know what they did next, where they went, who they met. I also wanted to know how the events of the first book would continue playing out, and how the spread of electricity (spark) and flying technology would change the world - and so the two collided, and I got to write stories about some of the characters we’ve already met in the first three going out into the world, following the changes and small revolutions that spread from the events of the first few books.

How does writing a novella differ from writing a full length novel, if at all?
I’m primarily a novella writer because I’m a character writer; I much prefer exploring how people react to events and the small moments between them than looking at big, world-shaking plots; and I’ve found that a novella is pretty much the perfect length to just follow one person’s story. I’ve personally found that I need to plot a novel better than I plot novellas - I need more interwoven events and a longer timeframe, whereas for a novella I can mostly get away with winging the plot! It’s definitely been an education for me to jump between novellas to novels, but it’s definitely worth trying both as a writer.

Do you have any favourite characters, or people whose story arc you want to explore further?
Toru is my absolute favourite; he’s a pain in the butt, invades every scene he possibly can, fell in love most inconveniently when I didn’t plan for him to, and I absolutely adore him.
I was lucky with the novellas in that I have gotten to explore most of the story arcs that I wanted to - I picked up most of the characters from the first three books and introduced a lot of new ones, and I loved being able to tie the wider world and characters into the specific stories (for example, in Book 9 the main character meets the main characters from Book 4 as part of her journey) - so I get to catch up and see how people have progressed even if I’m focusing on someone else’s story.

Where will the series go next?
I’m currently just finishing the tenth and final novella in the series, and I’ve got three novels planned after this; they follow the children and younger generation of the current characters, and look at what the changes made to the world have done after a generation, and how the thinking and political world is changing. I want to explore electricity, slavery, communication, the growth of flight and travel, changes in labour...the world doesn’t quite get set on fire, but it’s looking at how the technological changes begin to revolutionise a lot of lives. However, the novels are currently on the back burner due to other projects, so I’ll have to see how it all goes!

Do you have any other works in progress?
I’m currently writing an urban fantasy series; the first book is finished, the second is almost done, third and fourth are halfway through and the fifth is in the eternal planning loop! Beyond that, I’m also writing short stories in both the GreenSky and urban fantasy universe, and I usually have some sort of fanfic on the go.

You have been co-editing the forthcoming anthologies from Grimbold Books - how does that experience differ from that of writing?
The anthologies have been a brilliant mix of amazing and frustrating, and definitely a different experience from writing! I think the main difference between editing (particularly an anthology) and writing is that with editing, you’re having to deal with so many additional details and a much wider range of problems than with writing, which tends to be far more internal problems and story issues (and character problems, because characters are tricksy hobbitses.) I’ve loved being able to read so much wonderful fiction for the anthologies, but narrowing down the stories is always so hard - you’re trying to pick stories that fit the theme of the anthology and also display the widest range of talents possible, as well as picking as broad a range of ideas and settings as you can. We’ve been so lucky to have a whole bunch of brilliant writers submit, and I’m so proud of the collections we’ve pulled together - even if choosing stories, working with writers to edit and polish them, getting the formatting sorted and the whole bunch of myriad little details has been a lot of work!

Are deadlines a help or a hindrance?
A bit of both! I don’t do well with self-imposed deadlines as I know that I can break them, but external deadlines are usually good as I’m pretty organised, so will make sure I get things done.

Nanowrimo – love it, hate it or both?
I like NaNo a lot! I am definitely a break-the-rules person, though; I’ve done it for the last four years, but I see it as dedicated time for me to work on whatever is going to help me - which for the last few years has been novellas or a WIP rather than a new novel. NaNo’s community spirit is really amazing, and it’s definitely worth doing and being part of - but I’d advise doing it on your own terms.

Are there any films you are watching - Avengers or others? What about Game of Thrones?
I’m sort of sporadically into films...I’ll occasionally see things at the cinema or watch something with a friend, but I much prefer settling with a book! I’ve recently enjoyed Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy, haven’t even tried Game of Thrones (I didn’t get on with the books so haven’t dared try the TV series) but will happily watch Ghibli or Disney films any day.

What are you reading at the moment?
It tends to change by the day! I currently have Jeannette Ng’s Under The Pendulum Sun and Jasmine Gower’s Moonshine on the go, and I’ve just finished Artificial Condition by Martha Wells - but it will have changed by next week!

If you could go on holiday to any of the imaginary worlds you've read about, where would you go? (And where would you avoid!)
I definitely wouldn’t want to go to the Game of Thrones universe, and given the current films, I’d probably avoid the Marvel/DC universe too! I’d love to go to some of Diane Wynne Jones’ universes - Howl’s Moving Castle, Deep Secret (and The Merlin Conspiracy) or The Dark Lord of Derkholm all sound like amazing universes to just be a visitor in. Jasper Fforde’s Thursday series would also be great fun - I’d be able to visit any book I wanted!

I am unsure how to frame this question, but Oxford must be second only to London as a magical/literary destination, from the time of Lewis Carroll and Tolkien to the present day (Phillip Pullman…) What’s it all about?
I’ve only been living in Oxford for a month, but it’s a beautiful city - the buildings are stunning and I’m enjoying the open space! My commute is down the river every morning, which is fabulous. I think Oxford combines a constantly changing mindset and population in a very centred and long-term framework, and something airily philosophical and grand with a more down-to-earth practicality: there’s a huge population of geeks and passionate people, and I love the way that everything mixes. It’s a very laid-back city, but also somewhere that the magical could be real - and could be just around the next corner, or peering down from the carved spires.

Do you belong to any fandoms – Dr Who, Star Wars, Star Trek (or many more)?
I’m not part of any particular big fandoms, but I love Studio Ghibli, My Little Pony thanks to a friend who was really into it, and The Dresden Files...beyond that, I’ll quite happily discuss Harry Potter and know the basics of most fandoms, so I can at least hold my own in a conversation - or duck when someone yells about a monster!

Amazon.com | Amazon UK

About Kate Coe:

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. In real life she's a typesetter and fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for May 18, 2018

It's time for the weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with Avengers: Infinity War (spoilers mostly marked, but reader beware), The Handmaid's Tale, Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, various TV show cancellations, tributes to Margot Kidder, an uproar involving Origins Game Fair as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, con reports, crowdfunding campaigns, science articles, free online fiction and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on Avengers: Infinity War:

Comments on season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale:

Comments on Solo: A Star Wars Story

Comments on Deadpool 2:

Tributes to Margot Kidder:

Comments on various TV show cancellations:


Writing, publishing and promotion:




Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

MANUS DEI: Harbinger (The Khamsa Chronicles, Book 1) by Edmund A.M. Batara

 Release date: April 30, 2018
Subgenre: Dark Fantasy, Apocalyptic

About MANUS DEI: Harbinger:

The former Light-Bringer's time to rule is coming. And there's nothing humanity can do about it. Yet the Devil is prophesied to lose everything in the end. Destiny or not, the fallen Archangel has other plans.

Thus the tumultuous last stages of a conflict as old as time. Fought in this world. With the weapons and science of humanity.

But though the time of the Apocalypse is nearing, Heaven waits. And in preparation for the final conflict, the minions of Hell have started infesting the world. Corrupting humanity and stealing the heavenly spark that connects mortals to God. Unless stopped, when the end comes, most of the divine power that exists in every person will belong to the Adversary. The Serpent has no plans of losing again. With enough heavenly power, he believes that even a divine prophecy can be broken.

Against the forces of Hell, it falls to the shoulders of a few good men and women at the side of diminished angels to delay Armageddon. A retrograde action against the forces of darkness.

One of them is Keith A. North, SEAL E-6, left for dead in the sandbox. Recruited by the secretive Khamsa, an organization almost as old as recorded history, he learns how to fight against nightmares made real. Limited by rules as ancient as the struggle against Hell.

(A novel of around 40,000 words).



Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt?
Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv'd [ 35 ]
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal'd the most High, [ 40 ]
If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais'd impious War in Heav'n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie [ 45 ]
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms.

- John Milton, Paradise Lost (Book One)

1348 A.D.
The northern Tian Shan mountains.
Central Asia.
The Kyrgyz Region.
The lake of Issyk-Kul.
Enzo looked at his gory work, blood dripping from his blade. Beneath their robes of brown, the tainted monks were armored in various designs and make – hardened leather lined with iron or steel evidently being the popular choice. The senior priests among the dead wore chain mail hauberks. Cervelliere helmets were the norm, easily hidden by the large cowls of their plain robes.
He looked at his two companions. Agmand, the Magyar, was unhurt. But the man’s sabre was also bloody, and his shield was gone. The panting Magyar was resting against the stone wall of the room, his mail coif unhooded. The Venetian, Francisco, was worse off. He sported a large bleeding gash on his left arm. The man’s bevored breastplate was heavily dented, and his vambraces were gone. His buckler was on the floor, split into several pieces. But he still had his barbute and mail coif, though the steel headgear showed several nicks and small cavities in the metal.
“Agmand, watch the door,” Enzo ordered as he moved towards the Venetian. The Magyar moved to the side of the inner door where the hostile and armed monks emerged. He reached Francisco just as the man slumped to the floor on his knees. The man was already pale from the loss of blood, which gaudily decorated his armor.
Enzo placed his right palm on the wound and his left on the Venetian’s face. A warm glow, yellow in hue, softly suffused both men. He removed his hands.
“I’ll never get used to that,” said Francisco. His pallor was returning to normal, and the bleeding wound had disappeared, leaving a faint red welt instead.
“The power of Our Father is more than enough, my friend,” replied Enzo as he stood up. “Rest for a while. Agmand and I can handle matters for a few more minutes.”
Francisco dragged himself to a wall and sat down, his mace still in his hand.
“How about you, Agmand? Wounds?” Enzo asked as he wiped his sword on the robe of a fallen acolyte.
“Tired, Jehoel. Extremely. I didn’t expect these tainted monks to come rushing at us like that.”
Enzo smiled.
“You really must be exhausted, calling me by that name.”
“I guess I am,” laughed the Magyar, whose armor was covered with blood. “Though why the name ‘Enzo?’ It could be something else. One closer to your true name.”
“There are very few, if any, Italian names which start with ‘J.’ I could call myself Jovanni, but that would grate on a lot of ears,” Enzo chuckled.
“That would be an unforgivable atrocity,” came Francisco’s exhausted comment to the laughter of his companions. The immediate battle over, some of the stress induced by the surprise attack and of fighting while outnumbered was released by humor.


About Edmund A.M. Batara:

Active Member, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
A Goodreads Author.

The MANUS DEI Series.
(All on Amazon) 

Let’s be honest. I won’t say anything about my likes and dislikes, and all the other stuff they tell you to put on this page. We are all different individuals, with dissimilar personalities. That’s what makes us human. Instead, I’ll discuss what brought us together in this story.
Fantasy and science fiction have always been my favorites, especially those from the era of dime novels and genre magazines, the time when both were still deemed fringe. Those stories spark the imagination and bring a reader to worlds and concepts beyond their reality. Though I have to admit, reality is fast catching up with science fiction. Fantasy, on the other hand, is being enriched by today’s gaming and movie technology.
My writing preference is fiction anchored on a familiar fact, be it mythology, historical facts, existing mythos, or even a physical feature—something one knows exists in the real world. It makes immersion in the grand adventure easier and more enjoyable. A book may be an author’s creation, but it doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a common point of reference between the writer’s story and the reader’s experience. Or even between readers.
Writing started as a hobby for me on free serialized novel websites, created for the pleasure of writing and sharing one’s stories. It was mostly a stress-relief exercise. I was fortunate that other people found them engaging and enjoyable. To my readers, thanks!
I still write on the free websites, but unlike full-length books, readers do have to wait for periodic installments. I welcome constructive feedback and engage readers in discussions about the mythos as the comments and discussion sections of such serialized stories will show. But I do try to avoid spoilers.
Have fun! There are innumerable worlds out there. Explore and let your imagination fly. Unlike our protagonists, there’s no dark Elder god, a tentacled monstrosity, a stabby assassin, or a vengeful deity waiting outside your door.
Enjoy the journey.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Interview with Marita Smith, author of Emergence

Today at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, it gives us great pleasure to interview Marita Smith, whose novel Emergence was our featured new release on May 7, 2018.

Emergence is the second book in the Kindred Ties Trilogy. Your bio describes you as a paleo-biogeochemist. How important is your knowledge of science to your writing?

I think it’s intrinsic to the way I write; science permeates everything! I remember sitting in lectures at university daydreaming about potential applications of molecular jugglery, geology, electromagnetic radiation, evolution….an understanding of natural phenomenona has changed the way I interact with the world, and I love being able to express that through my writing. 

Tell us a bit more about the Walkers and their present day incarnations.

The Walkers are part of an ancient reincarnation cycle designed to keep the Earth in balance. In Emergence, we learn more about this cycle and its ancient origins. The present day incarnations are three sixteen year-olds, each with the ability to communicate with animals of a particular biome: Eli (Air), Fletcher (Earth), and Ariana (Water). 

What is the Convergence gene and could such a thing exist in real life?

The Convergence gene is a mutation on the mitochondrial gene sequence that enables a person to form a telepathic bond with a unique animal partner. The Walkers alone have the unique ability to communicate with all animals from one of the three biomes of air, earth, and water. 
Our mitochondria, which produce most of our cellular energy, are the result of an ancient symbiosis event. It’s pretty miraculous (and terrifying) that all multicellular eukaryotes (us included) would not be here today unless one prokaryote engulfed another, billions of years ago. What if this organelle has an even more important role, one that has lain dormant and long forgotten? What if a mutation on the mitochondrial gene sequence enabled humans to communicate with animals? 

Who or what are the antagonists in this story, the MRI? What do the initials stand for?

The Mitochondrial Research Institute (MRI) is a genetics organisation aware of the existence of this incredible ability, actively hunting down teenagers with the Convergence gene around the world for their mysterious (and sometimes lethal) experiments. You do not want to end up in one of their research compounds, trust me.

The story seems to have both a science fiction and a fantasy element – in the blurb it says that “a catastrophic solar storm threatens to release a dark spirit that
will imperil the entire planet.” How do the elements of fantasy and science interact?

The story definitely draws from both science fiction and fantasy. Science is the backbone for the convergence between humans and animals, but I also incorporate a parallel universe, the spirit world, which only the Walkers can enter through meditation. The Walkers’ abilities are tied to the existence of ancient spirits composed of pure energy that can traverse the boundary between worlds. In the spirit world, the Walkers’ animal partners can assume almost any form; my favourite is Jericho (Ariana’s salamander) – he turns into a dragon!

Do you have any other works in progress?

I’m currently busy working on Book 3, which will be released early 2019. 

What is a paleo-biogeochemist?

A paleo-biogeochemist is someone who analyses really old stuff (paleo) left by living organisms (bio) in ancient sediments and rocks (geo) using chemistry (chemist). In my thesis, I studied organic compounds left by algae and archaea deposited on the sea floor around Australia. By comparing ratios of particular organic compounds (called molecular fossils, because they are long-lived, like dinosaur bones) it’s possible to reconstruct ancient sea temperatures. Pretty neat, huh?

I am intrigued by the suggestion that chemistry is a language in its own right. Can you tell us more about what you mean?

Chemistry enables me to see the world in a different, more visceral way. Thermodynamics, crystal structure, enzymes, haemoglobin…there is so much depth to the phenomenon we take for granted around us, whether it’s occurring at the top of a mountain or in each of our cells. Chemistry is Earth’s language. 

You have travelled widely – has your experience when travelling influenced your writing?

In 2013, I spent a year working on organic farms in the UK alongside people highly attuned to natural rhythms. I woke with the sun, planted according to the lunar cycle, and ate just-picked vegetables at every meal. I was also writing a journal article based on my honours research and delving into the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report. The disparity between the two worlds was alarming. By day, I was helping create a sustainable future; by night, I was churning through data detailing the steady degradation of the planet by human hands over the last few centuries. When I returned home to Australia, I was struck by how readily we take natural resources for granted and the sheer volume of stuff we consume. There had to be a way to find balance, to create a world where humans lived in harmony with the Earth. It struck me that long ago, perhaps we did. Maybe we took only what we needed, and lived alongside plants and animals, just one part of the evolutionary tree of life. 

Are you working on the third book in the trilogy and what do you foresee for the concluding volume?

I’m currently busy working on Book 3, which will be released early 2019. The final book is shaping up to be my favourite – we’ll see the Walkers really mature into their roles, with plenty of action!

What are you reading at the moment, inside or outside the genre?

I always tend to have a non-fiction and fiction book on the go. At the moment I’m reading Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, and have just finished Emily Suvada’s This Mortal Coil (which was brilliant!).  

Can you name seven books that have had a great influence on you?

The Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card – I read these when I was young, and they’ve really stuck with me. I loved the world, the science, the terminology, and how smart and able the Battle School kids are (Bean will always be my favourite).

Dune by Frank Herbert – another book I read when I was young; the beautifully crafted Arrakis will always be with me.

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald – The first time I saw myself  (as a budding baby queer) in a story. 

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund – I took this with me on my travels, and it’s a BIG book to lug around. That’s how much I love it. 

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – all of his novels take interesting scientific, historical, and philosophical concepts and mash them together until your brain explodes with new possibilities. Just, wow.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky – the evolutionary narrative, the science – I adored this book. Tchaikovsky creates an alternative history that challenges human superiority to the very core. 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari – an insightful examination of humanity’s insatiable quest for connection and to understand our place in the universe and the energy that surrounds us. 

You can buy Emergence and Marita Smith's other novels here:

Apple iTunes | Dymocks | Booktopia | Harbour Publishing House

About Marita Smith:

Marita Smith is an author, editor, and gourmet mushroom grower. After finishing a PhB (Hons) in Science at the Australian National University, she worked as a paleobiogeochemist in the Netherlands and then vagabonded her way across Europe working on small farms. She now lives in a tent on the NSW South Coast, where she writes young adult science fiction, cultures bioluminescent fungi, and hangs out with her donkey, Mindy.