Meet ST Sanchez, Author of Fantasy and Children’s Books #author #fantasy #interview #reading

The Portal Keeper coverA few weeks ago I reviewed a fantasy story that I enjoyed, and that you could share with  kids too: The Portal Keeper. I’ve messaged with the author, S. T. Sanchez, from my neighboring state of Texas. Today I’ll share our exchange. Scroll down for an excerpt from her novel 🙂

Welcome Sarah. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Dallas, Texas. I love Texas. The weather is crazy, but the people are friendly. I graduated from the University of North Texas with a BA in Spanish. Mexico is my second home. My husband is from Mexico, and I have family down there. I love the culture, the people, and of course the food. I have three wonderful children and I love hiking and spending time outdoors when I am not writing.

Fantasy is my preferred genre to write in. There are no limits in fantasy beyond my own imagination.

author S. T. SanchezWhat got you into writing?

I was never a huge reader when I was younger. I guess I just didn’t find anything that really grabbed my attention. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I really started to love reading. I would go through series after series.

I never thought of myself as a writer. Term papers were hard to stretch out to the ten or twenty pages required. The thought of writing a book didn’t really enter my mind.

My first book began on a whim. I just wanted to see how long I could write for. This resulted in a completely juvenile story that will never see the light of day. It did teach me that I had the capability to write. I just needed practice and a better storyline.

What did you learn from writing your first book?

Just to preserver. Keep working at it. Don’t be afraid of rewrites. Take your time and don’t rush into publication.

Which do you prefer: print books or ebooks?

I probably read about 50/50. Ebooks have their advantage but I still enjoy having a physical book in my hand occasionally.

Tell us a little bit about your main characters

Ajax is just about to turn fourteen. He is a dutiful child who is taking on a responsibility that was never meant

Is this a stand-alone novel or part of a series?

The Portal Keeper is book 1 in the series.

Currently, what are you working on?

I just finished up the second book in my YA Vampire trilogy. Nightwalker was just released in May. I am also working on the sequel to The Portal Keeper, I don’t have a title yet.

Do you have people read your drafts before you publish? How do you select beta readers?

Definitely. I am still looking for more. Some authors don’t want too many eyes on their work. I am the opposite. The more eyes the better. It is hard to find good beta readers who will point out your flaws. But I have a few really good ones.

What was your biggest challenge when writing? Did you have any writer’s block? If so, how did you work your way through it?

I find working on several projects helps keep my mind flowing. I try to keep the number to three projects. I have found that if I get stuck I can jump to another project and then when I come back to it, I usually don’t have a problem finishing it.

What was your writing process like?

I need background noise. Whether it’s the tv or good music. Then I usually

What are your hobbies aside from writing, if any?

I enjoy hiking, not that there are many places to do that in Texas, but I recently got to hike some of the parks in Utah. There is some gorgeous scenery. I also enjoy baking, which probably doesn’t help my chocolate addiction.

Please treat us to an excerpt from The Portal Keeper

The Portal Keeper coverIt was dark all around him as he struggled to catch his breath. He couldn’t make out his hand in front of his face and had no idea which direction to swim in. Suddenly he was roughly pulled out of the water and tossed onto a hard surface. He coughed a few more times and tried to sit up. The floor rocked beneath him, and Ajax realized he was on a ship of some sort.

“Well, what have we got ourselves here?” a grizzly voice asked. “Spots, shine a little light over here, will you?”

Something buzzed by Ajax’s ear and then a small but exceptionally bright light shined in his face.

He put up his hand, attempting to shield the beam from his eyes.

“It’s a man,” someone called out.

Someone prodded him with a stick.

“Hey!” Ajax exclaimed, swatting it away.

“What were you doing out in the middle of Death Lake at this hour?”

Death Lake, that sounds promising, Ajax thought to himself.

“I’m looking for my friend,” Ajax answered. “Have you seen anyone else? Did anyone else fall?”

“Shut him up,” another voice called. “Get him down below.”

Something covered Ajax’s face and then he was grabbed forcefully and carried to another location. He felt as if he were going down stairs. He was flung unceremoniously into a chair, and the hood was yanked off his head. He rubbed the back of his arm, where he had been gripped too tightly. It was dark in this new place too.

Slowly a lamp was lit, giving a little light to the area.

A rhinoceros stood at the head of a table, wearing a pair of striped trousers and suspenders without a shirt. He leaned forward. “How did you come here?”

Ajax scooted back in his chair, looking around the table. He must have really experienced a lot in the past week because the talking rhinoceros didn’t amaze him as much as he felt it should.

From The Portal Keeper

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Behind the Scenes of a Mars Colony, Treachery Threatens Survival #sciencefiction #Mars #military #space #scifi #story #reading #review #bookreview

We Are Mars coverCheryl Lawson’s Mars colony was established 52 years ago in story-time, which is decades into our real-life future. Placing a colony underground and genetically-modifying the humans born there made survival possible. Now, vital systems are becoming hard to maintain, they are heavily dependent on Earth, and the g-mod program is vital to ongoing support.

As the story opens, someone is drilling deep into a Martian glacier. He’s up to no good, and colonists are too worried about their spiraling maintenance problems, and (like most real people) too involved in their own relationship games to realize.

A breathtaking discovery and a dangerous system failure combine to create a race against time and a desperate fight to stay alive. Just when it seems the colony will survive, things go wildly-wrong again.

Mistakes are made, allegiances shift and lives hang in the balance. No one can be trusted as allies become enemies and the true nature of life on Mars is revealed – One wrong move, and it will be your last.

A wonderful read with a surprising relationship twist near the end. This is a fine addition to the Mars genre of scifi. I especially liked how real Mars and the colony felt. Lawson’s descriptions are fun: for example, ejecta from a crater is “a frozen splash in a bowl of tomato soup.” I also liked getting inside the characters. Each one has a generous introduction.

I scored a pre-release copy – We Are Mars is due out May 15th. So mark your calendars or better yet, pre-order today so you don’t miss out. The book is subtitled “Part One” so it ends with the hook for the next book, a hint of what’s coming.

Scifi Mars Colony in Big Trouble, But Can’t Be Bummed All the Time #cat #Mars #scifi #sciencefiction #trailer #story

While Emma and her friends struggle to save their lives and colony, what’s the cat they brought to Mars doing? It’s fun to imagine in this video.

Anxious about her one-way journey, a young roboticist won’t back out despite tragedy in the tiny colony. Admirable, but it may get her killed, because something is terribly wrong on Mars.

Scifi Mars Colony - Kate RaunerAll five books in the Mars series are available on Amazon, individually or in a Box Set (great value for hours of reading pleasure.) But you’re not stuck with Amazon! Also available from other favorite stores, individually or in that same Box Set. Join the colony. Read one today.

Conspiracy on the Moon drives this scifi heroine #bookreview #review #sciencefiction #scifi

Artemis book cover

Not the most exciting cover I’ve ever seen

If you enjoyed Andy Weir’s The Martian (the book or the movie) you’ll find his style carries over to Artemis. The story (with maps!) is set on the Moon, in an established (if small) lunar city. The main character, Jazz, is a young woman of Arab and Islamic descent. Her background contributes to the story, but she’s not observant and this isn’t a lecture on religion. It’s a crime story, with more than one criminal, and some of them are willing to murder. What the criminals are after is satisfyingly wonkish and believable, but no spoilers here. You’ll see when you read the book.

Despite being in a completely different setting, Jazz shares some traits with The Martian’s Mark Watney. She uses technology in her schemes, never gives up, wise-cracks a lot, and swears. There are references to sex, though nothing steamy in the story itself.

But Jazz is not a sympathetic character. She’s a young smuggler ready to commit larger crimes. Weir gives her a backstory to explain her willingness, but it never made me like her much.

The story flows well. I enjoyed the lunar colony, which relies on imports from Earth in an economy based on tourism. The Apollo 11 site is a major draw and fun to see through the story’s eyes. The lunar city itself is well presented along with its inhabitants – exactly what I’d want on the Moon.

In an interesting twist on flashbacks, messages back and forth to Jazz’s Earth-bound pen pal provide background and then catch up to the story to participate in the action. Nice touch.

Details of the technology Jazz uses were fun through most of the book, but in the climax I skimmed along, wanting to see how the story turns out.

One odd thing: the story is described as a heist, but it’s not. At least, not in the usual sense of a robbery. My thesaurus claims the word heist can mean attack, so I guess it applies, but why use a secondary definition?

Here’s another thing I find odd. The title of the book is Artemis: A Novel. I didn’t need to be told it’s a novel – there are plenty of clues (read sarcasm here.) I’ve seen other books add “a novel” to their titles, so I guess it’s a fashion of some sort. Doesn’t hurt anything – I just think it’s odd.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who likes realistic science in their science fiction, and enjoys a bit of an anti-hero. And would like to visit a small city on the Moon.

What others are saying
At 3.9 stars, with over 1900 reviews on Amazon, it’s no surprise this book is in the top ten (not 10%, but top ten books) in its Amazon categories’ sales ranks. Although, in another oddity, the day I checked one of its Amazon categories was “time travel.” Huh?

Some reviewers had trouble following the science part of the story, while others thought it was too low-tech! Like me, some felt the main character wasn’t likeable, and one said Jazz was “what young boys THINK women are like.” Bit of an ouch there. But most readers enjoyed it,” Mr. Weir’s got humor, wit, snark” and “loved the plot, characters, and one liners.” Artemis by Andy Weir.

Fantasy Story to Share With the Kids in Your Life #review #bookreview #fantasy #story #kids

Portal Keeper book coverIf you’re looking for a fantasy to keep kids reading over a school vacation, check out this book, and read it yourself, too.

A mysterious portal, which opens at dawn and closes again at dusk, is located deep in the woods and kept secret from the vast majority of the people who inhabit the kingdom of Rastella.

When Ajax, a newly appointed teenaged keeper, takes his post, his first day does not go well. Soon the kingdom’s prince and his best friend have vanished into another world and he must follow them or they will never return.

The story travels through a Land-of-Oz like world, where the characters meet friends and enemies, and battle dangers.

Listed under Amazon’s Children’s eBooks category, this book held my adult interest too. A perfect story to read and share with a youngster in your life.

Interplanetary Diplomat Tackles Conspiracy on Dystopian Worlds #scifi #sciencefiction #review #bookreview

Does your reading get repetative? Does scifi feel like the same handful of galactic wars and teenage battle-games over and over. Read an indie author with a different perspective. Here are two books by EJ Randolph, an author in my own little town of Silver City, that offer optimism with their action. I bet there are authors in your town, too, you’d enjoy reading.

Retrograde

Scifi by EJ RandolphWhen a bucolic agrarian world seems too serene, its people too complacent, there’s bound to be trouble. Sent on an apparently simple mission, diplomat Kate Stevens is soon fending off attempts on her life and digging into the royal family’s intrigues.

I enjoyed exploring the society with Kate and discovering both the good and bad. She’s a straightforward hero with an admirable team and spaceship to help her. They puzzle out what’s happening on this world where the end of trade with other planets means a technological slid backwards. Was that bad luck or sabotage? And will the elite kill to protect the answer?

The Dead Don’t Believe

scifi by EJ RandolphInterstellar diplomat Kate Stevens faces another puzzle. Three primary colors and three basic geometric shapes – what can the people hoisting them intend? And why is their planetary government willing to declare war over the movement? Joined again by the crew of spaceship Miss Appropriation, Kate travels to a new Federation planet to find out.

While rebellion and interplanetary war threatens and there’s plenty of action, Kate’s commitment to doing the right thing is the core of the story. It’s fun to find a scifi book with a unique view of societies as humanity colonizes the galaxy. There are also illustrations that my e-reader displayed very nicely.

Help an indie out! Leave a review, especially on Amazon (which is the Big Dog in book sales.) Like many indie authors (including me!) Randolph is just starting to accumulate reviews. Here are a few of the comments:

  • She and her courier crew avoid lethal violence to bring harmony back to a broken society

  • I read the book in one sitting until late at night. I don’t often do that.

  • I liked the allusions to history, and to ethnic backgrounds.

 

Teens Battle to the Death in Ruthless Dystopian Games – Latest Big Hit Contribution to the Genre #review #bookreview #dystopia #scifi

Teen Dystopian BookRed Rising is in the scifi/fantasy dystopian genre – the sort where teenagers fight and kill each other in “games.”  Like other stories in this genre, adults are generally corrupt or ineffective. The genre favors medieval sorts of weapons with flashes of high-tech and high-fashion. The main character must win the game to maneuver into a position to topple the evil society. You may think this has become predictable stuff, but Red Rising by Pierce Brown is phenomenally popular.

The story delivers all the requirements of the genre, and grandly. The underdog hero, Darrow, is a Red slave in a society of many rigid classes ruled by the Golds. He chooses to join the game to give meaning to his murdered wife’s death, bravely suffers a dreadful preparation, and doesn’t really know what he’s getting into. There’s lots of violence and suffering by all involved, more than any one of us could endure because the characters are supermen and superwomen.

Darrow repeatedly ruminates about his lost love, which drives him and makes him unwilling to settle merely for revenge. He feels guilt over some of the terrible things he must do to win and sometimes suffers consequences. He makes and loses friends and enemies. The story is well done and doesn’t devolves into merely a video game plot.

At one point I was getting a little tired of the violence, and laughed out loud when a character said that he was getting tired of the game. How about that – an author who can read my mind.

What others are saying
There are always some negative reviews. Darrow’s ruminations strike some as “rehashing” and “tedious.” Others noted this is more of a fantasy than hard science fiction (though the scifi genre has been stretched into fantasy forever.) The book is set on Mars but there’s only one grim element that says “Mars” to me – the planet’s been terraformed, so the story could have been set almost anywhere.

Others disliked similarities to previous popular dystopias. “I am very bothered, and even distracted… because it is following The Hunger Games in 2008 and Divergent in 2011 and Red Rising came out in 2014 which wholesale loots plots and character arcs from the previous two books.” Joel De Gan.

The comparison wouldn’t bother the author – the Amazon description brags about the similarity to Ender and Katniss.

My bottom line.
I’ve read enough stories in this genre lately, and that may blunt my opinion. I’ve read that scifi is always about us today, so they make me wonder – do teens and twenty-somethings see school as an arbitrary game imposed on them by callous adults? And the real world on the other side of school as grim and rigged?

Red Rising is well done and if you’re looking for this sort of story, you’ll love it.