Thursday, 14 January 2016

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Sounds of Marina Bay

Chuck Wendig's challenge this week was to write a piece of flash fiction inspired by a photo, and the picture I've used is this:

I slightly overshot the word count, but since I don't have time to edit it down, here's my 1200 word flash fiction, The Sounds of Marina Bay

Marina Bay wasn't pretty, but it was lively.  Jon liked to walk there, especially in the afternoon, when the kids were out of school and groups of them huddled on the steps, drinking, or chased down the sidewalks on skateboards and motor scooters.  Sometimes you had to be quick to dodge the teens on their quirky, not quite legal, vehicles; even the hulking great picnic tables on wheels seemed to have a knack of appearing silently out of nowhere.
This particular Thursday afternoon, Jon had ducked out of his PhD research, promising himself he'd make it up later, because hell, you could research when it was dark, but walking the streets in the dark was both less fun and more dangerous.  He was outside the cinema, the big modern bubble bding with its shell-like shape that was supposed to funnel the sound in all the right ways to create the perfect acoustics, when it happened.  Maybe it happened because he was watching the sun sink behind the bubble and observing the way the light reflected off the curves, instead of watching his feet.  Maybe it happened because he was thinking too much about his research project, and the likelihood of getting enough MRI time and enough volunteers to get to the bottom of the anomaly he'd noticed regarding the part of the brain that activated when listening to voices, and the way that, in some people, it seemed to become active even when another of his volunteers attempted to 'think loudly' at them.
Whatever the reason, he didn't spot the pony-tailed girl wobbling towards him, despite the flashing neon on her wheels, and when he did, he moved to one side without looking.  And stumbled.  And fell.  Towards the road.
Afterwards, he couldn't remember the car hitting him, though he did remember realising what must have happened when he awoke in the hospital with bandages round his head.  For a moment, he thought he was blind, or had bandaged eyes, but then he realised the room was just dark, and the bandages only covered his crown and ears. 
The room was silent. He looked around and the darkness resolved itself into the faint glow of the heart rate monitor beside his bed, its sinuous curve scrolling across the screen, peaking and troughing like the waves of the sea.
Didn't those things normally beep?  Jon was sure they did.  And when the sun rose and the nurse came in with a tray of lumpy porridge and pills in a little plastic cup, she also came silently.  And then, as she approached the bed, her neat blonde bob swinging as she moved, he finally began to hear her voice.
"He's awake now.  I wonder if he knows it's been three days.  I shouldn't tell him, the doctor will be coming soon to talk to him, tell him about the auditory nerves, but he looked like a smart guy, well apart from all the blood, I think he knows something is off."
Jon did.  He could hear her voice, but her lips weren't moving.  And her voice wasn't exactly in his ears, it was more as if it was arriving somewhere inside his head. 
"I need to get an MRI on this."  He said the words out loud, he thought, but heard nothing.  The nurse turned her head towards him, though, and this time it was the other way around: her lips moved but he heard nothing.
He remembered the words she'd used: auditory nerves.  Had the crash damaged his hearing?  Presumably.  But it seemed to have left him with something else. 
When she realised what she'd done, her shout of remorse echoed through his head.  She looked far too sweet and innocent, with her rosy cheeks and blue eyes, to be using the language that landed in his mind.  He was interested to observe that her inner voice, as he'd begun to think of it, had a discernible accent: Aussie, maybe, or New Zealand, and he wondered if it was the same as, or distinct from, her external voice. 
Her lips moved, and he judged from the wide open mouth and flexing vocal chords that she'd shouted, though he heard nothing.
The chatter in her mind went on, and he learned that she'd called for a doctor, and she hoped it would be the charming Doctor Singh who answered her call rather than his grumpier colleague, Doctor Collins, whose bedside manner was distinctly suspect.  Then another voice joined the chatter. 
Jon was momentarily confused, wondering who was mumbling about the expectation that doctors would fulfil so many roles: medics, administrators and counsellors.  A moment later a lanky, balding guy, nearly as white as his coat, came through the door. Doctor Collins, then.
Since Jon couldn't hear, the doctor had brought a pad and pen with him and proceeded to write notes explaining the situation, though Jon had to smirk as he squinted at the near-illegible writing, all the while listening to the Doctor's mental monologue.  With the nurse's still going too, Jon was getting a little confused.  It was like being in a noisy pub, with the conversation at the next table overshadowing the one you were actually interested in.
He nodded and shook his head - gently, because he still had one hell of an ache from the crash - in response to the Doctor's scribbled messages. 
And yes, he nodded, he felt well enough to see a visitor, though he couldn't imagine who was visiting.  His family were half a continent away, so presumably someone from the lab.
And indeed, his lab partner walked in, smiling nervously as she carried on an interior monologue, trying to make herself act cheerfully as she took in the damage.  Hell, she was a scientist, shouldn't she be able to take a few incisions and abrasions in her stride?
She hadn't yet figured out what to do about his hearing loss, though, since the doctor suggested it was likely to be complete and presumably it was too early days for him to have sussed lipreading.
And he could hardly tell her that he could hear everything she was thinking, so he let his eyelids droop closed and sat in silence until she retreated, taking her tiresomely self-centred thoughts with her. 
As the day went on, Jon's new sense seemed to become keener, so that he was hearing thoughts from the rooms next door, down the corridor, and eventually even the busy cafeteria below. The chatter was exhausting, and since the hospital was a 24/7 operation, he couldn't even wait for it all to turn off so he could go to sleep. 
Finally, in desperation, he unclipped himself from the monitor and headed outside, dodging in and out of lifts and doorways whenever he heard some thoughts approaching, until he reached the open street.  Even there, though, he found he could hear the thoughts of drivers passing, and the occupants of the high rise apartments he walked by.  He put his hands over his ears, but it made no difference. 

By the marina, it was a little easier.  Thoughts assailed him only from one side, and he turned with relief to the silent sea.  
The water was dark and cold and still and silent, and he hardly hesitated before stepping off the dock into one of the small dinghies, and unhitching it from the pier.  He didn't have the keys, so he just pushed away from the jetty and paddled with the small oar he found under the seat, until eventually, mercifully, the voices faded.  Then he curled up, rocked by the silent waves, and hearing nothing more than the tiny rustle of fish thinking of plankton and predators, he slept.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Why I Wrote my First Paranormal Romance

This is the first time I've participated in a paranormal blog hop.  I'm still getting used to the idea of myself as a paranormal writer.  My first three books (Desperate Bid, Perfect Partners and The Santa Next Door) were all set firmly in the real world.

I've written science fiction before (for the now-defunct AlienSkin Magazine, and more recently for the anthology Stories from the World of Tomorrow), but although the stories were somewhat 'out there', there was an explanation for the strange occurrences.  Or at least an implication that an explanation existed. Buildings ate people because the scientists who engineered the sentient town forgot to consider that imbuing it with a survival instinct might result in more than just self-repairing walls.  A newspaper proprietor was able always to be at the scene of the next big story due to precognitive visions resulting from a (largely unexplained) genetic mutation.  In science fiction, even if we don't know exactly how things happen, we know that if we dug deep enough into the story world, a scientific explanation would be forthcoming.  If it wouldn't, the story isn't sci-fi.  Which is why Star Trek is science fiction, but Star Wars - spaceships and aliens notwithstanding - is actually fantasy.  What's the Force if not another word for magic?  But I digress... or not.  Because sometimes the line between science fiction and fantasy is thinner than we think.  It's hard to tell the difference between magic, and science that we just haven't quite figured out yet.  As Arthur C Clarke's third law (which I have a bad habit of wrongly attributing to Asmiov) says: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

And that's why my latest release, Djinn and Tonic (coming from The Wild Rose Press on February 19th and available for preorder now) strays over the border into fantasy, or paranormal, territory.  It falls into the broad umbrella of 'speculative fiction' - fiction that asks a question about a hypothetical future, or alternative universe.  In this case, the question is: what would happen if we actually understood, and controlled, our reality, well enough to be able to change things with just a thought. Or, in the traditional language of fairy tale: what would you do if a genie appeared and started granting your wishes?  The fairy tale image fitted so well that I dispensed with the trappings of science and went for a full-on magical explanation of the story's background.  I've always been rather fond of genies, particularly the delightful, funny, blue one portrayed by Robin Williams in Disney's Aladdin. Ashtad, my genie hero in Djinn and Tonic, isn't as funny as Robin Williams, but he is a whole lot better looking - in fact, he's a model, a djinn from an alternative plane who's summoned into our reality by the wish of my heroine, Goth fashion photographer Sally Purdew, for a perfect model to help her win a photography competition.  He looks a little like this:

You can read more about Sal and Ash on Amazon, and find links to the other blogs in the paranormal blog hop here:

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Cover Reveal - Echoes of the Past

Iris Blobel is a new-to-me author, although a quick look at her Amazon page reveals that I've been missing out for some time, and I look forward to catching up on her romances, set in one of my favourite places - Australia.  Her next book, Echoes of the Past, is due out in February, just a few days before my sweet paranormal romance, Djinn and Tonic.  The cover for Echoes of the Past is now being revealed, and it's every bit as beautiful as Iris' others.

So... drum roll please... here it is:

Author: Iris Blobel
Series: Fermosa Bar Book #1
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Synopsis: Emily Bradshaw waited over twenty years to see Connor again…

When her childhood friend, Connor Walsh, returns home to see his ailing father, Emily is elated to be reunited with the handsome man who moved to London so many years ago. But excitement fades to disappointment when he doesn’t remember her—or their first kiss. With her crush on Connor still in full swing, she’s determined to enjoy the short time he’s in Fermosa Bay, even though she knows her heart will break when he returns to his life in London.

When Connor receives news that his biological father is terminally ill, he returns to Fermosa Bay, Australia. 

With memories of his childhood tucked fondly in the back of his mind, returning to the small, coastal town leaves him to wonder how life would have been if his mother had never taken him away. Would he have been married and had children? Perhaps with Emily Bradshaw…

Secrets from long ago begin to unfold…

As Connor and his father grow closer, Connor learns his parents have a broken love story of their own. Will the echoes of the past lure him into staying, maybe for good? Or will he relive his parents’ tragic story and flee to London? 

Walking away from a real chance at true love…

COVER DESIGNER: Redbird Designs

MEET THE AUTHOR: Iris Blobel was born and raised in Germany and only immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. Having had the travel bug most of her life, Iris spent quite some time living in Scotland, London as well as Canada where she her husband. Her love for putting her stories onto paper has only emerged recently, but now her laptop is a constant companion.

Iris resides west of Melbourne with her husband and her two beautiful daughters.

Next to her job at a private school, she also presents a German Program at the local Community Radio.

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year, New Collection

Crimson Romance have really made my New Year's Day!  I've just spotted that the collection of sports romances, 'Perfect Game', featuring my dancing story 'Perfect Partners', is one of this week's top sellers on the Crimson website.  But if sports aren't your thing (and I wouldn't blame you - apart from dancing and skating, they're not really mine), you might prefer this new collection, also featuring 'Perfect Partners'.  

Lovers of stage and screen have a treat in store with 'Spotlight on Love'.  Crimson have collected seven love stories starring some of their hottest heroes and most heartfelt heroines, and I'm so excited to see my couple feature alongside some of Crimson's biggest names.  I've already read quite a few of these books, but if any of them are new to you, the whole e-book collection comes at a bargain price so it's well worth a look.  Here are the seven stories, plus my thoughts on them.

Forgiving Jackson: Country music superstar Jackson Beauford has returned home to Tennessee after a tragic concert fire to lick his wounds at his family estate, where Emory Lowell is trying to erase her own painful memories by running an event-planning business. As a passionate attraction flares between these two wounded souls, can they save more than just Beauford Bend?
I haven't read Forgiving Jackson, but I loved another of Alicia Hunter Pace's Beauford Bend novels: Nickolai's Noel, the story of what happens when gentle craft shop owner Noel meets her hero, star ice hockey player Nickolai Glazov.  Alicia Hunter Pace writes my favourite kind of small town romance with big personalities, so I look forward to seeing what she does with the country music world - it's a setting I find fascinating - our music collection features three series' worth of Nashville soundtracks! 

Hiding from Hollywood: Waitress Abby Richards is terrified when movie producer Ethan Walker walks into her diner. The last thing she wants is her name connected with his; her life is now about hiding from the tabloids. But when she's left without a safe place to stay, Ethan offers her sanctuary in his home, and Abby must decide whether she can finally stop running and trust Ethan with her secret.
I've read, and loved, this suspenseful drama about a talented actress who goes into hiding, filled with shame and guilt, after making one foolish move.  There she would stay, happily waitressing, if it weren't for a superstar movie producer who's convinced she is the only actress to fill his leading role.  Sparks fly as two people who are used to getting their own way find themselves at odds, only to discover that underneath, they may both be looking for the same thing after all.  A great read.  

New York Minute: When rock star Diego Diaz flashes his bedroom eyes at shy accountant Veronica Bass during a wedding reception, she invents a cover story and leads him to the nearest hotel room. Diego's secrets are the kind that blow up any lasting relationship. Is their love destined to last for only a New York minute?
I've got to admit, I'm a sucker for a rock star story.  There's just something about the bad boys of the music world - their power, charisma and style - that makes them into utterly irrresistible heroes. Diego Diaz is one of the best, and clearly he's looking for more than a boring accountant.  So Veronica does what any sensible woman would do when faced with the opportunity for a one-night-stand with a superstar: she lies.  But when he proves to be smitten and seeking more than one night, will he learn the truth about her?  And what will happen when she finds out he has a secret of his own?  You'll just have to read this sizzling story to find out! 

Five of Hearts: As lead singer for the boy band Five of Hearts, Dean learned that women only want him for his money and fame. So he has a good reason for hiding his alter ego from his neighbor, Shannon, and everyone else in Scallop Shores. But the closer he gets to Shannon and her children, the more he realizes he may have made a big mistake.
I may have mentioned previously how much I love Jennifer DeCuir's Scallop Shores series.  I was privileged to be included in the Modern Magic anthology alongside this talented author, and now our books meet again, as another sexy superstar hits small town America.  Jennifer does a great job of bringing the phenomenon that is boy band Five of Hearts to life, while also making it clear exactly why Dean is ready to leave it all behind, even before he meets the woman who may rock his future the way the music rocked his past.  But too many secrets can really get in the way of a happy ending, and sooner or later the truth will out.  An irresistibly sweet, funny, and touching story.  

Perfect Partners: London's latest hit dance competition television show throws Lisa Darby and Redmond Carrington into each other's arms. The problem? These former flames aren't looking for a repeat performance. Can they stay in step with their goals and ahead of their past?
Yeah, this one's mine!  So what can I say?  I loved writing this story of a girl who gets a second chance with her first dancing partner, and first love, when they're offered the opportunity to compete on a TV show which pits real-life couples against each other in a dancing duel.  Lisa hates to lie, and it'll be painful, given their history, but the prize money could save her beloved studio, so what choice does she have?  Only Redmond knows that he made a mistake leaving all those years ago, and he's back to put it right.  Lisa wouldn't believe him if he told her, so he's got his work cut out to prove himself to her.  I'm thrilled that Lisa and Redmond will get a chance to show off their romantic rumbas and tense tangos to a whole new audience in this collection.  

California Thyme: Mandy Parker has sworn to avoid the Hollywood scene that sucked in her mother, until she takes a gig to cater to a movie set. She soon finds herself helping sexy locations manager James Lubbock discover who is sabotaging his career and losing her heart in the process.
I haven't read this one, so I'm looking forward to discovering another glamorous love story.  The film world is always fun, and with all those theatrical types, it's rife with tension and drama, so this should make for an action-packed love story. 

Confection Connection: Baker Carly Piper's only way to save her bakery is to partner with her rival on a TV reality show to produce a wedding cake for a wealthy bride. Is this a half-baked proposal, or will love be the icing on the cake?
Another one that I've yet to discover, but since I've loved the combination of TV drama and romance in Heather Thurmeier's reality TV series, I have high hopes for how much I'll enjoy this sparkling confection from fellow Crimson Romance author Casey Dawes.  

Spotlight on Love is due out on 4th January but you can already preorder on here and here.  The collection is also available on Barnes and Noble and other good e-book retailers.