Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tuesday Book Review

Amazing Grace by S.E. Sasaki

My four star review of Amazing Grace by S. E. Sasaki

I never read the prior books in the Grace Lord series so I was pleasantly surprised by this third book. It’s full of action, romance, macabre intrigue, and even a few laughs. Great characters, whether human, AI, flora and otherwise inhabit or invade the Nelson Mandela, a medical facility in deep space, where badly injured bodies are kept in cryopods while replacement body parts are grown. A mad doctor, a Plant Thing and its offshoots, assorted hospital personnel/patients and especially Grace and Bud, an android are all involved in almost satirical activities.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday author interview

Today I interview Claire Buss 

1. What genre(s) do you write in and why? Do you write flash fiction, short stories, novellas and/or novels? Graphic novels, anime or comics? If you do multiple genres and/or lengths, which do you prefer? Have you ever written any poetry?

I write in a couple of different genres. So far I have my hopeful dystopia series, The Gaia Effect and The Gaia Project and then I have my humorous fantasy novel, The Rose Thief. I've also released satirical collections of short stories based on my observations of life in the suburbs and by the seaside. I write flash fiction, short stories, novellas and novels. I don't write particularly long novels, around 70,000 words maximum and I do enjoy the flash fiction format. I do also write poetry and have released four short books so far.

2. What writers do you admire? What are you currently reading?

I admire so many writers because I read so much. My favourites include Robin Hobb, Rachel Caine, Joe Abercrombie, Ben Aaronovitch, Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman to name just a few.

I cam currently reading Leaps of Faith by AM Leibowitz, Half the World by Joe Abercrombie and Ghosts of the Sea Moon by AF Stewart.

3. How do you pick character names?

It sounds a bit odd but I let the name drop into my head. I always have to have a name for a main character before I start writing. I'll think about the type of character and wait for a name to pop up and then I'll roll it around a bit finding the right surname before going ahead and using it. Secondary characters aren't quote so lucky. They often spend much of the first few drafts of the book called NAME.

4. How long have you been writing?

I've always written little bits here and there but I didn't seriously begin my writing career until 2015 when I finished my first novel for a local writing competition. That book, The Gaia Effect, was published in December 2015 and I began calling myself an author.

5. What kind of support do you get from your family and friends?

My husband is very supportive. He listen to me wail and gnash about how awful I am and then five minutes later try to keep up as I go on a super speedy rant about what's going to happen next in the current WIP. He is my first reader and idea bouncer. I wish my children could be a little more supportive but it's not their fault, they are too little to understand that Mummy needs more than five minutes to go her work. But my little boy, Leo, is very proud of me being a writer and was super excited to find my books in the local library.

6. What social media do you use to spread awareness of your work?

I tend to use Facebook (www.facebook.com/busswriter) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/grasshopper2407) mainly. I do have a LinkedIn and Google+ account but they tend to just be used for sharing blog posts. I dabble in instagram (@grasshopper2407) when I have taken interesting pictures or photos of cake. I do have an email newsletter with a free book for anyone who signs up (http://eepurl.com/c93M2L) and a website (www.cbvisions.weebly.com) where you can read the first chapters of my books.

7. If you had unlimited funds, how would you advertise your work?

I would run lots of Amazon and Facebook ads, I'd do posters on the Tube and I'd print up a couple of hundred copies and hand them out for free all over the place.

8. What are you working on now?

I was working on a Roshaven novella, The Interspecies Poker Tournament, set in the world of The Rose Thief but it has decided to become a novel so now I need to add another 40-50,000 words which isn't a huge problem because I enjoy writing in that universe.

Last year in NaNoWriMo, I completed the first draft of the third book in The Gaia Collection - The Gaia Solution so I have that to take through the first round of editing and tears as well.

9. Have you self-published anything? What was your experience like?

All my books are self published. The Gaia Effect was published by an independent press called New Generation Publishing who charge a fee to take care of all the publishing bits and pieces. That service was part of the prize in the writing competition. All my other books have been self-published through KDP.

10.Have you sold your work at book fairs or conventions? What kind of experience did you have?

I have attended one convention so far and it was super scary being the author and not the punter but I spoke on a few panels and sold a couple of copies of my book which wasn't bad considering I was a complete unknown. I have the opportunity to go back to the same event again later this year so I think I'm going to go for it.

I've done a few events in local coffee shops and libraries and they've been a little hit and miss depending on the weather, what else is going on and the types of people coming round the events.

I haven't been to a book fair yet but it's on the list.

11.What's the one piece of advice that has helped you, and where did you get it? What advice would you give a beginning writer?

I was fortunate to take part in a writers workshop run by crime author Ian Ayris who also happens to be a qualified counselor and he was great at explaining that once you come to the end of your book you have to let it go and cut all ties to it so you can begin again on the next project and not be crushed by the reader response. The advice I would give to a beginning writer is to just trust yourself and the words will flow. If you want to write then write. No-one can stop you.

12.If you had it to do over again, would you have started writing sooner?

I don't know because my life has been shaped by everything that has happened up until this point and I think if I'd started writing earlier I may have given up or ended up writing completely different things. I don't think I would've had the confidence to write before.

13.What are some review remarks that stick in your head?

I have been so lucky to only have positive or constructive reviews thus far so for that I'm thrilled. I love it when a reader notices a little in-joke or reference I've made and I'm so interested in reading the theories readers have on characters and what might happen next. Reading reviews has helped me describe the books to other people as there have been some very handy descriptions like, for instance, hopeful dystopia for The Gaia Effect.

14.Which do you find hardest: coming up with a story idea, writing, revising, or marketing?

I find revising the hardest. It always feels like a huge mountain to climb and it's often the point where writers get consumed with self-doubt and the belief that their work is rubbish. I have no problem coming up with ideas or indeed writing when the muse is with me. I used to work in marketing so I enjoy that aspect but I know I haven't got it quite right yet - there are still lots of things I should be doing on that side.

15.Are you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid of the two?

I'm a discovery writer which I guess makes me a pantser. I often have no idea what is going to happen next when I'm writing which is one of the things I love about the process. I can't even imagine being able to sit down and plan out the whole book before I write a word although in the spirit of things I suppose I ought to try it that way at least once. Sometimes I have to stop mid way and ensure I haven't gone off track with the story line and usually there is an awful lot of plot hole filling when I get to the end of the first draft.

16.What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write? Romantic? Sex? The death of a character? Fight scenes? Others?

I haven't found anything hard to write. I did get emotional writing several scenes in The Gaia Effect and they still get me even now. It's important to pour emotion into your stories.

17.What's your solution to writers' block?

Go have some cake. And try not to get stressed about it. I am currently stressing about the lack of work I've done on The Interspecies Poker Tournament which in turn is panicking me about sitting down and getting on with it so I keep procrastinating to avoid having to do it.

18.How much time do you spend on research for your writing?

All my books are set in worlds of my own imagination so until I reach a point where I mention something I don't know anything about I don't do any research. At that point in time I Google what I want to know and then carry on writing.

19.Your character decides to go a different way than you planned. What do you do?

Go with it and see what happens!

20.Have you ever used weather or setting as a character?

Not yet but it could totally happen, especially in my Roshaven books.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tuesday Book Review on Wednesday

Max and the Banjo Ferret: Book Three of Max and the Multiverse

Four star review of Max and the Banjo Ferret by Zachery Wheeler

Max, Ross, Perra, and Zoey are at it again. This one wasn't quite as funny as the other two in the series. Still lots of fun characters and situations as they start and end a war in the Terramesh.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Knitting Blog

The following is from MDK again, an article on gauge from Patty Lyons:

My inbox for the last three months has been filled with a variety of questions on the same touchy subject. So, to get us ready for Bang Out a Sweater month, I’m going to be devoting the next two columns to one topic. That’s right, it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. The fly in the ointment, the monkey wrench in the works. The pee in the pool: gauge.

Yes, I hear your collective groans through my computer screen. Just settle down, stick your head between your knees, breathe into a paper bag, and let’s go to the mailbox. 

Dear Patty, 
I never can get row gauge right. No problem with stitch gauge, but I cannot figure out what to do to get stitch gauge and row gauge at the same time. Sometimes the pattern can be adjusted for the row gauge I am getting, but I cannot understand why I cannot get it to begin with.

Dear Michelle,

Many hands shoot up in the air when I ask my students, “Who has had trouble matching both stitch gauge and row gauge?” Then I say, “Take a look around the room. Anyone who is not raising their hands falls into one of two groups. They have never measured row gauge, or they are lying.”
There are so many factors that affect row gauge: the twist of the yarn, the style or method you knit, your purl row, and your needle material to name just a few.

If you know different ways to knit, you can often change your row gauge by changing your style. Continental knitting can yield a different row gauge than English, Portuguese, or combination knitting.

Then there’s the loosey-goosey purl.

Have you ever seen gaps that look like stripes on the WS of your fabric? That is called “rowing out,“ which is caused when your purl rows are taller than your knit rows.

Try an alternative purling method like the Portuguese purl or purling backward, or use a smaller needle for the purl rows.

One crazy simple way to change your row gauge is to change needle material.

Here’s a lace swatch where I changed needle material between every repeat. 

The first repeat (measured from above the cast on) was knit with nickel, and the repeat is 1 7/8” tall.

The second repeat was knit with stainless steel, and it is 1 3/4” tall.

The third repeat was knit with plastic, and it is 1 5/8” tall.

The final repeat was knit with bamboo, and it is 1 7/16”.

So take comfort in the knowledge that it’s not you, it’s them. It’s the stitches’ fault. But there are many ways you can wrangle that row gauge into submission. And if you can’t, there’s math, but that’s a topic for another day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tuesday Book Reviews

The Castle

Four-star review of The Castle by Nikki Moyes

This novelette, or perhaps it would be better to call it a short story, combines a virtual reality game with an actual fantasy environment. A twelve-year-old girl, Risha Suri, who has her father’s memories, must reach Castle One before a warlord leading a battalion in a simulation destroys it. The twist at the end worked for me. This well-written story is the beginning of a series. I’m intrigued enough to read more.

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)

Three-star review of Inferno by Dan Brown

When there was action and an advancement of the plot, this was a decent story about a virus and the race to stop its release. Art historian Robert Langdon, star of the popular DaVinci Code and other books by Brown wakes up not knowing how he ended up in a hospital in Florence. All of the info dumps on art and architecture as well as Dante’s Inferno drown the plot and instead of an exciting story, it’s boring. There are also so many holes in the plot as if Brown went off on a tangent and then twisted the story to explain it.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sunday Knitting Blog

Based on a similar article from Mason-Dixon Knitting and using the same pictures


Yarn is often defined by the number of ply in the strand. Ply does deep-down delectable things to your knitting. It can transform color, texture, durability, weight, and stitch definition. You can change how your knitting looks just by changing the number of plies in your yarn. When you choose a yarn for a project, you may make your decision based on durability, weight and stitch definition.

Multiple-plied yarns are more durable, less susceptible to pilling (forming small balls of fluff) than single-plied. A single-ply yarn knit into fabric stands alone against the stretching and rubbing of the world. By twisting strands together, each strand has a lot less of its surface exposed, and they are able to stand strong against pilling.

Plying can contribute to the weight of a garment. Want a light sweater? Don’t look at a five-ply yarn. There is an exception to this (isn’t there always?): a multi-plied yarn is lighter than a single-ply yarn of the same size. Why? There is air between those plies, and the single-ply is just one solid chunk of fiber.

The sweetest spot of plied yarns is in stitch definition. Depending on the number of plies in your yarn the finished knitted fabric will look, sometimes dramatically, different.

Single-Ply, 2-Ply, and 3-Ply

Today’s yarns are single-ply (spinners call these singles), 2-ply and 3-ply yarns. There are lots of other yarn constructions, yarns that are wrapped, cabled or chained. Those are for another day. Today we’re discussing the big three.

Yarn is built from energy, which we talk about as twist. Single-ply yarn has a single twist in one direction and plied yarns have two twists, one to create the single (in one direction) and one to create the ply (in the opposite direction). These twists create shape and motion in the yarn and contribute to the look and performance of knitted fabric.

Single-ply yarn has a roundish shape that can flatten easily. It has motion in only one direction, which can cause biasing when knit, if there is too much twist in the yarn.
Two-ply yarn is oval in shape. The ply twist moves the strands outward, they push away from each other when knit.

Three-ply yarn is round in shape. The ply twist moves the strands inward, they push toward each other when knit.

Ply in Stockinette

Single-ply (left): Single-ply yarn is smooth and stays where you put it when blocked; the stitches line up nicely. In stockinette stitch, it shows every weirdness in your knitting. My knit and purl tension is very different, and it really shows in stockinette with a single-ply yarn. This is the stitch that will bias if there is any over-twist in the yarn. Sometimes you can block it out, sometimes you can’t.

Two-ply (center): Two-ply yarn has a textured surface. There is no bias with a 2-ply yarn because the plies balance the twist. But because of the outward motion of the two plies pushing away from each other, there is a lot of visual movement on the surface of the knitted fabric. It looks toothy and organic.

Three-ply: Three-ply yarn is round and creates even fabric. The stitches line up and the surface of the knitting is smooth and placid. Look at the difference in the look of 2-ply and 3-ply yarn in stockinette. The 2-ply is rocking the soul train to funky town, and the 3-ply is ballroom dancing a serene waltz.


Single-ply: Single-ply yarns are obedient. When you block them into lace, they stay. Because single-ply yarn sometimes flattens and it doesn’t have the extra shadows between plies, the lace has a much softer, less crisp look.
Two-ply: The obstinate attitude that makes a 2-ply yarn so frisky in stockinette makes it a glorious yarn for lace. The stitches roll away from each other; opening the lace holes. The surface playfulness leads your eye all over the lace pattern.

Three-ply: The roundness of a 3-ply makes smooth lace. The inward twist energy of a 3-ply yarn makes the stitches roll toward each other, causing the lace holes to try to close. So 3-ply yarn makes textured stitches stand out in bold. When you look at a lace pattern knit in a 3-ply yarn, the first thing you see are the decreases gorgeously stacked up, overpowering the lace.


Single-ply: Cables knit out of a single-ply yarn are soft and flat-ish. A good look for a light summer top, but not what I want for an Aran sweater.
Two-ply: A 2-ply cable is a big step up from a single-ply cable. There are edges to these cables, but they really don’t stand up.
Three-ply: A 3-ply (or more) yarn makes the best cables and textured stitches. They roll in and push up. Three-ply yarns make themselves heard. They are crisp, have sharp edges and stand up like the Cliffs of Moher.


Single-ply: Single ply yarns are soft and flow-y when used for any kind of color work. The lines between stitches are undefined because the yarns spread out. This contributes to the classic look of Lopi sweaters, in which colors seem to flow into each other.
Two-ply: The pushing away motion of a 2-ply yarn leads to soft blurry edges between colors. Two-ply yarn is fantastic when you want that misty-water-color-memory look for Fair Isle or Bohus knitting.

Three-ply: Three-ply colorwork knitting has crispy clean edges. Each stitch is distinct, making colors very clear. Three-ply is great for intarsia, or if you want your Scandinavian snowflakes to really stand out.

It’s exciting that an attribute that is so easily overlooked can have such impact on knitted fabric.
Which ply will you choose for your next knit?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Tuesday Book Review


The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

5 star review of The Master Magician by Charlie Holmberg

Ceony is preparing for her test to become a Magician, but it’s decided that Emery can’t work with her or test her because it might be considered favoritism. Instead, she’s sent to the home of Mg. Bailey, whose apprentice is Bennet, a friend of Ceony’s. Bailey is the opposite of Emery Thane, demanding, sour and utterly difficult. He also disparages Emery every chance he gets due to a grudge he has, until Ceony sets him straight. But Bailey is the least of her worries, as Prendi, the Excisioner, has escaped while being transferred to another prison. Ceony is determined as ever to resolve all of these challenges. Ceony is… Ceony, only an even stronger and more skillful version of herself.