Cover Fire by Jess Anastasi

If the assignment is crazy, dangerous, or a little of both, Sub-Lieutenant Sebastian Rayne can’t help but take on the challenge. So when Command Intelligence tags him to fly one of their agents behind enemy lines, it seems like just another routine death-defying mission. Crash landing on the planet was a piece of cake, but the gorgeous agent he delivered safely to her meeting is now believed dead and he must return to retrieve her body.

After Agent Jenna Branson realizes her own people attempted to have her killed, she enlists the hot stick jockey’s help. His new mission? Sneak her back onto his ship to ferret out who wanted to get rid of her and why. But she fears her growing feelings for Seb have blinded her to his reckless insistence on helping her stay alive, and his rash behavior will cause them both to lose their lives.

Books in the Valiant Knox Series

Book 1: Escape Velocity
Book 2: Damage Control
Book 3: Cover Fire
Book 4: War Games

Having devoured Anastasi’s Damage Control and Escape Velocity (yes, it that order!), I grabbed Cover Fire in Entangled’s recent Christmas sales and settled down.

You definitely have to have read the previous books beforehand, as there’s not much characterisation of Seb going on and there’s also backstory you need to know, mainly because that drives a large part of the conflict. This is that there’s been moles in the military and now an investigative bureau is going through the ranks to uncover any others.

Jenna is an agent of this bureau. Seb flies her on a mission and the two get cosy. When he flies back, he’s told she’s been killed in action and is sent to retrieve her body. Only he finds out she’s not dead, though the bureau wishes she was. Now they have to go undercover on their own ship to discover where the kill order came from, and why.

Perhaps it’s the intrigue/political lean to Cover Fire that made me not love this book. It’s definitely not the writing, or the very hot sex scenes! The prose flows well and the descriptions drew me in, but still something was… off. I’ve never been a fan of politics in my entertainment – I avoid those episodes of Stargate SG1, for example – and after months of watching the world get closer to burning, I’m even less keen these days.

I will finish the series, because I loved the previous books. And I do want to know how everything ends for the crew of the Valiant Knox. I just hope the last is more action than reaction.

Rating: ★★★★☆

WriYe Blogging Circle | Year In Review

The year is almost over. So, sum up your year of writing. Did you met your goals? Are you satisfied with how your year went? Let us know!

2017 started fairly well, despite the rough end to 2016, with words coming steadily until the end of April. A motorbike accident resulted in a broken wrist and me being in plaster for seven weeks. I couldn’t write or crochet. Man, I was bored!

Even once the plaster was off, I had to be careful how much I typed at any one time. Then I wrecked my back. Honestly, this year had been full of personal disasters!

So, no; I have not met my goals. Nor am I particularly satisfied with how things went, but it is what it is. I can’t go back and not have the accident (I wish!) and wishing the year had gone differently won’t make it so. Best thing is to accept what happened, draw a line under it all, and move on.

Of Botches And Back Ups

So the other day I had the fabulous idea of adding a fiction database to my website, with the idea that I’d write short stories and upload them. Good, huh? However, said database meant adding a second to my hosting, which is where things went wrong.

Excited by the idea, I charged in and made changes, without backing anything up. There were two databases listed. I assumed which one was running WordPress and deleted the other. I guessed wrong. Trying to log on, I got an error page… and a dreadful sinking sensation in my stomach. I checked the FTP and yeah, everything was gone.

I immediately reinstalled WordPress and began to rebuild. I’d written the Doctor Who special reaction post in OpenOffice, so to get that online was just a case of grabbing the graphic off canva, then copy and pasting the text. But that was one post, meaning the blog looked a little… naked. Thankfully, though I’d no back up of, I do still have the one. I exported that and uploaded it here to fill things out a little.

Then it was a case of making everything look close to what it had done. I still need to write out my about page and put the FAQs back up, but at least the bones are here. I have decided, fingers thoroughly burnt, not to put up a fiction database. I’ll post shorts under a category or something.

And I have made an early resolution to back up my website once a month.

Doctor Who | Twice Upon A Time

From the moment Twice Upon A Time opened with the original recording of The Tenth Planet, I knew Whovians were in for a treat. But whereas sometimes Moffat has promised much and not quite delivered, here he gives in spades.

The classic recording morphs to David Bradley as the Doctor, Jared Garfield as Ben and Lily Travers as Polly, with the production staff finding a ton of original props to turn that Classic Who feel up to eleven. That the end of the episode switches back is a lovely touch.

In fact, Twice Upon A Time is dripping in Who lore both old and new

  • there are strong parallels to The Time of the Doctor, with the Doctor resigned to (and even eager for) his death. And as Eleven sees a memory of Amy at the end, Twelve sees Clara.
  • the Doctor seeks knowledge from Rusty, who last appeared in Into The Dalek and now lives on Villengard, mentioned in The Doctor Dances as the weapon factories where Captain Jack got his gun, before they were destroyed by the Doctor to be replaced by banana groves.
  • the mysterious force of Testimony was born on New New Earth and is basically a massive databank of memories extracted at the end of a person’s life. It’s like Missy’s Heaven, only far more benign.
  • a “clipshow” provided by Testimony features bubbles of footage. It’s all comes a bit fast, but classic Doctors Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, and Paul McGann are seen, alongside Matt Smith, David Tennant, Capaldi and, in touching tribute, John Hurt.
  • Eleven’s “We’re all stories in the end” is revisited by Bill Potts’ welcome return. Now part of Testimony, she exists in the form of her memories given an avatar, though the Doctor refuses to accept this version of her. But what are we, if not a collection of memories and experiences?

Memory and recollection then are the driving forces behind Twice Upon A Time, which is perfect given the story of the Doctor under Moffat. The episode is both a celebration and a definite closing chapter. Particularly poignant is how Bill proves to the Doctor that memories matter. Her kiss restores his memories of Clara, and the glass avatars then bring both her and Nardole back to say goodbye.

Also saying farewell, abet in a subtle way, is Murray Gold. The composer has provided the soundtrack to every episode from Rose onward; 12 years of on-the-button tracks such as the wonderful The Majestic Tale [Of A Madman In a Box] and the iconic Doomsday. Of all those leaving Who with the close of this season, Gold’s departure hits me the hardest.

Going back to memories, Twice touches on one of the Doctor’s greatest friendships. Rumour had it that Gatiss was playing Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, but when the first trailer mentioned World War I, that was clearly impossible, much to the relief of many Whovians, including myself.

Yet rumour wasn’t completely wrong. I twigged just after the First Doctor realised Bill was part of Testimony, so when he gave his full name as Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart – the Brigadier’s grandfather – I was unsurprised and immensely satisfied. Having the Captain involved in the Christmas Truce of 1914 was a fantastic touch that was both uplifting and moving.

And that sums up Twice Upon A Time. Beautifully filmed, abounding in references both visual and audible, it is, in my opinion, the best Doctor Who special to date. And that’s before the epic regeneration and Thirteen’s arrival.

[aw brilliant]

It’s going to be a long wait until autumn.

IWSG | September

Hello and welcome to my first Insecure Writers’ Support Group post!

A little about me: I’m a published author of speculative fiction romance, and winner of a PRISM and a SFR Galaxy Award. Which is enough reason to be perfectly secure, yet I’m not.

Partly because I don’t think writers are terribly secure as a rule, but also because depression lies. Especially about your self worth. It erodes your confidence.

My last story published was back in 2015. Writing has been sporadic since. 2016 was a year from hell. I’m slowly, slowly learning to write again.

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?

ARCHANGEL surprised me repeatedly. I started writing it for Script Frenzy, with a single scene in my head. And it just poured out. There was no outline, barely any plotting, just a character that I’d partly stole. Gabe turned out to be one of the gobbiest characters I’ve ever shared my head with!

I wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable writing ARCHANGEL as it was my first venture into urban fantasy. It’s a modern day story (as opposed to faux Victorian or space-based) and it’s set in L.A.: somewhere I’ve been once for the sum of a weekend. All praise Google Maps for helping me out massively. Something must have gone right, though, because ARCHANGEL  is the novella I won a PRISM for…

But writing often surprises me. That’s to do with pantsing and having no real idea what I’m writing. A dear, departed friend called it “organic writing.” I’m not sure that’s a real term, but it suffices.

The Master Rewatch – Logopolis

Written by: Christopher H. Bidmead
Original airing: BBC One, 28 February – 21 March 1981
Rewatched: BBC Store

Synopsis: The Doctor goes to Logopolis to repair the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit, unaware that a shadowy watcher is spying on him. Meanwhile, the Master has a plan of his own for the planet; one that could mean the unravelling of the causal nexus and the end of the universe itself.

Logopolis is the first episode of Doctor Who that I vividly remember watching, and the reasons are threefold.

First, while episodes based in London are always recognisable, there’s something special about one where you know the scene intimately. The “Pharos Project” on Logopolis is a model of the Lowell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, which my parents had taken me to at some point before; me being completely obsessed with all things space. I’ve been several times since, and it remains wonderful in itself, with the added Whovian bonus.

Second is the arrival of the Master. For a seven year old, the wilfully naughtiness of the Master was an instant draw, and I quickly found myself rooting for him rather than the Doctor. That he brought about the third point was icing on the cake, which brings me to…

Third. The regeneration. This was the first I’d seen, though I knew it happened. (I honestly don’t get fans who moan every time the Doctor changes face. It’s the entire basis of the character for crying out loud!) News had broken on Tom Baker’s replacement, and it was an actor I already knew and loved, so was quite excited about it.

Rewatching Logopolis at 43, I was still very much Team Master, though his casual regard (or lack there of) for life impacted rather more than it had at 7. And his manipulation of Nyssa is nasty. Yet. His blithe attitude to everything is as intriguing as it ought to be off-putting. I wasn’t wondering what made him tick at this point, but the spark of curiosity was lit.

SFR Brigade Showcase | September

It’s been an age since I took part in the SFR Brigade Showcase, and the first time doing so here. I’ll try not to make it my last, but I’m a scatterbrain and one month sliding into another doesn’t always register in the ways it ought.

Anyway, Showcase. Who wants a snippet? I’m not sure why I’m asking, because there’s no other option – a snippet is what you’re going to get. So there.

Snippet in question is from my very rough, very in-progress, untitled steampunk-ish fantasy romance because the document is open right now. The story follows Rhiannon, a Sister of the Mother Goddess, who is ordained to be the Witch Adviser of Duke Elric. Her mission is to end his reign and restore the religion he’s abandoned. However, the following snippet is where she sees him for the first time, and rather sets the tone (spoiler: things don’t go to plan.)

Morning light streamed through the eastern windows and caught in the gems worn by both the men and women courting Elric’s favour. Most were dressed in the latest fashion – the women tightly corseted with wide skirts and their hair piled high on their heads, the men in long coats over tailored britches and knee-length boots.

Pressed against the far wall, Rhiannon watched their over-animated conversations and listened to peals of exaggerated laughter. They reminded of the peacocks in the gardens in their obvious attempts to gain the duke’s attention. She sighed to herself at how ridiculous they were.

As she moved along the edge of the room, her gaze was drawn to the flurry of activity around the main table. Even though she had not seen Elric except in passing, she knew him the moment her eyes lit on him. There was an aura of power around him that was only partially to do with his magic. It caught and drew one to him, as evidenced by the hangers-on gathered around.

His eyes were as blue and cool as a winter sky. Dark hair swept back from a high forehead and a short beard framed a mouth that seemed permanently twisted in a sardonic smile. The velvet coat he wore was unadorned and stuck Rhiannon as quite severe. Yet it suited him more than she imagined a more fashionable one would.

The thought startled her and she shook her head. Orlagh had warned her of his magnetism, but it was one thing hearing of it; experiencing it was very different indeed. She would have to guard against it better.

Thank you for stopping by! Please check out the other snippets.

Stranded on the Sofa

Last Wednesday hubs and I went out on his motorbike (mine is still off the road) and we hit a pothole. And I felt something go in my back.

I’ve had sciatica before, so I know how it feels and how best to treat it. This time, though? Oh my gosh, it’s bad. I actually think I may have slipped a disc. The symptoms on the NHS site match up pretty well. But it also says that a doctor isn’t likely to send you for treatment until it’s been 4 weeks.

One has been hell. There’s no position comfortable. Sitting hurts. Standing up really hurts. I don’t so much walk as shuffle like a zombie.

Grr argh.

Alternating ibuprofen and paracetamol is kind of working, though “gentle exercise” is limited to when I have to go upstairs for the toilet. For the most part, I’m stranded on the sofa. I’ve taken to crocheting socks for a friend. Playing on Facebook and the Xbox. Swearing like a sailor when I have to move.

I’m also writing. ZERO HOUR is sort of ticking along, but I was attacked by a fantasy plot bunny and so that’s happening, albeit slowly. Having stepped back from publishing, I’m finding my pace to be doddering, which is nice in that I’m not stressing about writing, but also a little frustrating because I’m itching to be done.

I’m the same with crochet, to be honest – love starting and finished, slightly hate the bit in between.

I’m stranded on the sofa in between.

Ah well, the only way through is through. One small [shuffling] step at a time, and try and enjoy the journey or something.


The Master Rewatch – The Keeper of Traken

keeper1Written by: Johnny Byrne
Original airing: BBC One, 31 January – 21 February 1981
Rewatched: Horror Channel

Synopsis: the Doctor and Adric learn from the wizened Keeper of Traken that a great evil has come to his planet in the form of Melkur – a calcified statue. The Keeper is nearing the end of his reign and seeks the Doctor’s help in preventing the evil from taking control of the bioelectronic Source that is the keystone of the Traken Union’s civilisation.

I don’t remember watching The Keeper of Traken as a child, though I most probably did. It has a very different feel to most Doctor Who stories; with its slow-burn plot and intricate costumes, it has more in keeping with an historical play than a sci fi series. It’s extraordinarily lovely.

The Master only reappears towards the very end of the last part, with Anthony playing the very sweet Tremas for the majority of the story. I like Tremas. He’s a decent bloke and I always feel a slight pang at his death.

There’s some debate on the Master’s physiology in the Ainley years. Is he Traken, Time Lord or a blend of the two? It’s not a question answered directly by the show. What is known is that Tremas gets visibly younger on being taken over by the Master. The fact he continues to pursue a new set of regenerations would suggest his DNA is altered enough to allow for one.

But what is a Time Lord? As far as the Doctor goes, he has two hearts and a stolen Tardis. It’s never clear that he needs to have two hearts to regenerate (if we look at NuWho, the Doctor’s daughter Jenny has two and can resuscitate after death, whereas River can regenerate in full but I don’t recall her physiology mentioned.)

As far as the Master is concerned, I’m not sure it matters. Even with a new body – and the ability to recall some of Tremas’s memories – he’s still the same selfish, power-obsessed person he was beforehand. The only difference is his sudden affinity for black velvet and a sharp line in snark.

The Master Rewatch

Ahh, the Master. As noted here, I grew up with – pretty much literally – Anthony Ainley in the role and fell deeply in love. It’s a feeling which abides despite him being long gone, and which I’ve decided to celebrate for no reason other than I can by rewatching his Who episodes. For those with less-than-perfect recall of said episodes (which is probably everyone but me), they are as follows:

The Keeper of Traken
The King’s Demons
The Five Doctors
Planet of Fire
The Mark of the Rani
The Ultimate Foe

So join me, if you dare, on a voyage celebrating villainous shenanigans, ridiculously convoluted schemes and improbable escapes from certain death, with a new episode every Monday.