Author Interview – Michelle Birbeck

 

As part of The Stars Are Falling Blog Tour, it is my very great pleasure to be interviewing the author of this fantastic new book, Michelle Birbeck. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you really must get this book! Now, fanfare please . . . no, louder than that . . . please welcome, Michelle Birbeck *APPLAUSE*

CC – Hi Michelle, thanks for joining me today. Are you ready for me to grill you a little?

MB – So long as it’s for no more than eight minutes on a medium heat, otherwise I’ll burn.

CC- Oh, very good, starting off with a little joke, ha ha ha! I can see what sort of interview this is going to be *laughs*. Okay then, let’s make a start.
What inspired you to create the story and take it in this particular direction?

MB – The Stars Are Falling started with one image and three titles. The image was shooting stars filling the night sky and a young girl running away from something. The titles were The Stars Are Falling, The Stars Are Shining, and The Stars Are Rising. Obviously I went with the first one, because it fits the book so well. About eighteen months after I first had the idea, I came back to it. There was something I wanted to enter, but I didn’t have a finished manuscript that wasn’t part of a series.
So I decided to write one.
Despite only having thirty days until the end of the submission period.
Between the Skype text conversations, cooking dinner, and the Skype phone conversations, I had a full plot and all my research done the day I decided to do it. Ten days later, I had a fully written manuscript and two of my best friends reading it through for me to give me notes.
Intense is about the only way I can describe those ten days. I had 40 Marilyn Manson on repeat for the entire time (I have a thing about repetition when I’m writing). And all I did was write. Maybe eat a little, too.

CC – Wow! That does sound very intense. You did incredibly well to get it all done in ten days. I’m guessing you lived on caffeine and got hardly any sleep! Now onto the next question. Are any of your characters based on real people?

MB – Although I try not to directly base any of my characters on real people, I am absolutely positive there are bits of everyone I know in there somewhere. My character’s personalities come together as I write, instead of me writing them down before I begin.
With the characters for The Stars Are Falling, that is especially true. I had such little time to write it in that most of the planning I did was surrounding the Stars themselves and the plot line. The characters just all sort of fell in together and developed their own traits. Fortunately, most of them were pretty evident from chapter one!
From Alexis stumbling up the stairs, and Mark following with his cat calls, to Dale helping the pair home, and Jenny ditching them for a night under the stars. And they worked so well as a group, too, which I liked. They each had their own area of expertise, and they each had their own issues.

CC – I know exactly what you mean about characters just coming together and developing their own traits as that’s what happened with my books. Now, is there anything you would love to expand more on in your book that you couldn’t?

MB – I’ve had a lot of people give me strange looks when I say that The Stars Are Falling is a science fiction book. A lot of those tell me that they don’t like science fiction. To which I say, that’s ok, because it’s science fiction for people who both do and don’t like sci-fi. It has alien invasions, plenty of action, and a fast-paced, fun storyline, but isn’t full of advanced technology and spaceships.

CC – I must admit, it’s usually the advanced technology stuff that sometimes puts me off sci-fi, but your story is so much more enjoyable to read! Is there a message in your book you would like readers to grasp?

MB – The main part of the book is the reason why the Stars fall to Earth and start killing everyone, and that’s because we’re killing the planet. So there is a big message there about saving the world, but there are also several other messages hidden in there that came about as I was writing. One of those is that it really can take just one person to save the world.

CC – I agree we’re slowly killing this planet and yes, it can just take one person to change things – if only they could get the right people to listen. So, do you have a   favourite character in The Stars Are Falling?

MB – Dale! Hands down, I am completely and utterly in love with Dale. He’s been through a lot of stuff, and he’s still standing tall and taking everything in his stride. I love his strength in the face of everything. And he is so cute and adorable! He’s tall, dark, and handsome, with a dash of geek thrown in.

CC – Tall, dark and handsome? Ooo any chance of throwing him my way when you’ve finished with him? *Laughs* What are some of the books you’re really into right now?

MB – I’ve recently started reading Agatha Christie. I’m not very far in, but I love Hercule Poirot! And I can’t wait to read more. I’m hoping to be able to read some more after the launch for The Stars Are Falling.

CC – I’ve never read Agatha Christie – you’ll have to let me know what you think of them.  So now you’ve got me wondering. Is there a certain author you admire and if so, why?

MB – I adore Richard Laymon. And this is where all the people who know me groan. I’ve answered this question the same way for year now. But the answer hasn’t changed. No matter what other books I read and how much I love them, Laymon in the one that I love the most. I still have all of his books, every last one, and there isn’t anything that I dislike about them. From the characters to the plot to the location to the way they are written. They are all fantastic.

CC – Hmm I think I remember reading something of his many years ago but can’t remember what it was. What author do you hope to meet one day?

MB – It would be nice to meet Richard Laymon, but that’s not going to happen unless ghosts start popping out of the afterlife. So other than him, I would love to meet JR Ward, especially if she’d be willing to dish some secrets about my favourite characters!

CC – If you’re in a cartoon, which character would you be?

It’s been a long time since I sat and watched cartoons on a regular basis. So I’m going to go with Berk. I’d like to be Berk from Trapdoor. Just because he is awesome, and I have his plushie sat on my bed every night.

CAM00309 with Michelle interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CC – Oh, he’s cute! Name one superpower you would like to have.

MB- Flying! Think of the money I’d save on international flying. Not to mention the calories it would burn flying that far! Though I expect customs would be interesting.
“And how did you arrive today?”
“I flew.”
“With which airline?”
“None.”
“But you said you flew.”
*Me doing chicken actions.* “Yep. I flew.”

CC – Is there a supernatural being you would like to be and why?

MC]like to be a werecat. A giant, cuddly kitty cat that can run around scaring people. Also, just because I adore big cats, and I’m not fond of the sight of blood, so being a vampire is out for me. But being a werecat sounds like fun.

– If you could travel through time, where would you go?

Ohh, this is a question I have been asked before, a long time ago. And my answer is still the same. I’d go to Rome. Because I want to hear the song Nero played as Rome burned. I expect it would be a heart-warming occasion. (And yes, I will stop with the bad jokes now.)

And Five Fun Shorts!
1) What makes you cringe?

Cracking bones. People breathing on me. People touching their eyes. The sight of blood. There’s a whole list of things!

2) Favorite dessert?

Cake. A nice, moist cake with strawberry and cream filling, and marzipan and icing on the top.

3) Dog or cat person?

If my husband asks: cat. If not, I like big, fluffy dogs.

4) Savoury or sweet snacks?

Depends on my mood. Although, I am always in the mood for cold roast chicken with a bit of salt on.

5) Favourite season?

Late spring. It’s not as hot as summer, the nights are getting longer, and it’s not as cold as spring. And there are so many pretty flowers!

Thanks again for joining me today, Michelle and good luck with ‘The Stars Are Falling’.

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BLOG BLAST – The Stars Are Falling by Michelle Birbeck

The Stars Are Falling
By
Michelle Birbeck

“Is saving the one she loves worth killing the whole world?”



Release Date: 3rd July 2014

Genre: Young Adult/Sci-Fi
Published by: The Writers Coffee Shop

Available from: AmazonKoboBarnes and Noble, and TWCS PH

Summary:


Jenny is content trying to survive university and sneaking glances at her housemate, Dale, in between hours spent watching the night sky. When the first meteor streaks through the night, landing close enough to shake the house, however, everything changes.
What’s left in the crater isn’t a lump of rock from outer space, but something that looks like a man. Soon after, the killing begins. Anyone who gets in their way is disintegrated with an all-consuming light so hot nothing remains.
Hundreds more descend from the heavens, bleaching the night sky, shaking the ground. They want to eliminate all threats to Earth, starting with the biggest one: the human race.
Jenny and Dale know a way to do both: save Earth and stop the human race from being wiped out. They just have to stay alive long enough to convince the falling stars to spare the human race.

Author Bio: 


Michelle has been reading and writing her whole life. Her earliest memory of books was when she was five and decided to try to teach her fish how to read, by putting her Beatrix Potter books in the fish tank with them. Since then her love of books has grown, and now she is writing her own and  looking forward to seeing them on her shelves, though they won’t be going anywhere near the fish tank.













Connect with Michelle Birbeck on: 
Facebook, TwitterWebsite and Goodreads



Giveaway Link: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 


Video Trailer:



The Dream Land by Stephen Swartz

I’m taking a short break from the Heart Search Blog Tour posts to bring you something a little special. My good friend and colleague at Myrddin Publishing Group, Stephen Swartz, has just released his latest novel, The Dream Land, book one: Long Distance Voyager, and it’s so cool, I wanted to share it with you.

This great new novel is a genre mash-up. Predominantly Sci-fi, it also has elements of steampunk, psychological thriller, a bit of romance and a little humour. Here’s the blurb:

How far would you go to save the love of your life? Through a doorway to another world?

Sebastian, that quiet tax examiner at the corner desk in the IRS service center, carries a dark secret: once upon a time he and his high school sweetheart Gina found a rip in the universe and stepped through it to a strange world of magical beauty.  

Far from being a Disney-esque playground, the world of Ghoupallesz bursts with cosmopolitan elegance, alien perversions, and political strife. Gina, the adventurous one, falls in love with the adventurous possibilities. Not Sebastian; always practical, he insists they return to Earth. Gina refuses so he goes back alone, vowing never to return. Yet he finds himself drawn back repeatedly–he calls it “research”–and often crosses paths with Gina. Sometimes he saves her, sometimes she saves him, forever soul mates. 
 
Now years later, life on Earth hasn’t gone well for Sebastian. Then the headaches revisit him, with flashes of memories from Ghoupallesz. Gina is in trouble again, he senses, and he must, as always, save her. 

Meanwhile, a pair of too-curious IRS co-workers have accidently overdosed on the Elixir of Love he brought back on his last trip and the antidote exists only on Ghoupallesz. With these co-workers in tow, Sebastian returns through the interdimensional portal, fearing it may be his final adventure. He must gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the Zetin warlord’s castle before her execution. Perhaps then she will stay with him.  
 
But are his adventures to the other side real? Or are they just the dreams of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when Sebastian returns without his co-workers.

THE DREAM LAND is a genre-mashing epic of interdimensional intrigue, alien romance, and world domination by a pair of nerdy sweethearts, spiced up with some police procedural and psychological thriller, then marbled with twisted humor, steampunk pathos, and time/space conundrums.

Sounds really cool and different, huh? I was really intrigued when I read that and wanted to learn more. I managed to twist Stephen’s arm a little and get him to agree to part with an excerpt for me to share with you and here it is:

“Sebastian had pulled on his adopted name, wore Set-d’Elous with confidence as he stepped out of the bushes and found himself somewhere in Lyas. He remembered Lyas was particularly dry on that spring afternoon when he escorted Gina through the curtain into the municipal park, set between blue Lake Zarmê and green Lake Orosz. The two of them slipped out and in two steps blended with several other couples passing by, admiring the flowers.

Regarding Gina, feeling her hand clasping his, he could not speak.

“What’s the matter with you?” she asked him.

“You’re young! Look at yourself. You’re not the age you were back in my apartment.”

“I’m a First-Class Voyager, I told you.” She laughed. “Someday I’ll teach you that trick. Or maybe not.”

She took his hand and led him through the park. The woman still looked older than him, evidence of her longevity on Ghoupallesz, but she had shed about twenty years during the passage through the tangent. He saw her more like the person he had rescued from the Zetin, the same girl he had kissed in high school. It was still Gina, no matter what appearance she had.

“The first thing I always do, no matter how much of a hurry I’m in,” she told him as they crossed the street to a news bulletin board, “is check the date. Then you’ll know how to act, and what to do.”

He stared at the paper tacked up, realizing the language had faded somewhat in his memory.

“My god! It’s 1472!” he cried.

“Relax.”

“B-b-but the year was 1455 when I returned for Zaura last time. That was seventeen years ago? I lost ten years with her the first time. Now I’ve lost seventeen more years?”

“I said relax.” She linked her arm in his. “You don’t have to stay. You’re just helping me come back, like the Eagle Scout you always were. See me over to my son’s wedding and you’re free to go.”

They walked along the avenue, catching stares from the people they passed, hearing them speaking English.

“But you’re not old now, Gina. Can’t you go by yourself? I don’t want to be here. There are too many bad memories for me.”

She shushed him, gave his hand a playful slap, pulled him along.

“Why don’t you indulge me this one afternoon,” she said. “Look around us. Here is a fine spring day, perfect weather, not a yellow cloud in the whole green sky. Are you looking? The trees are in full bloom, and—look at that stighal over there, the way its long pink petals droop all the way down to the ground. What’s that, about forty feet? You won’t see anything like that back on Earth. You see the beauty here? the harmony? Look at the lugê-feq with the big, orange roso on its branches. See the halêl flying over the roof of that townhouse? Why can’t you just relax and enjoy this day? If you leave here by tomorrow, you won’t have missed more than an hour of your precious Earth.”

He looked around as much as her impatient tugging would allow. She was ushering him quickly down the walk, certain that she would be late for the wedding. Everything was passing by him too quickly, and her words were like breezes, part of the environment.

“Here we are,” she announced, pulling up in front of the red stone House of Union.

A priest in the traditional yellow raelor robe stood outside and welcomed the people who were arriving. The priest seemed to recognize the flustered woman with the younger man on her arm. Inside, Set scanned the group of Ghoupalles—and he presumed they were scanning him, too. He sat beside Gina, the place of honor for the groom’s family. They were the only ones there, he saw. And the bride’s family was no where to be seen.

“Wait here,” she whispered to him. “I’m going to find my son.”

He waited, in that conspicuous seat at the front, closest to the wedding mat. Feeling curious stares sticking to his back, he realized he still wore his Earth clothes.”

This book is definitely on my ‘to-read’ list, not only because of the blurb and this excerpt, but also after reading the review featured on ‘Best In Fantasy’. It’s now available on Kindle – click the cover below to go to the Amazon page where you can read the first seven chapters in this epic tale FREE.

TheDreamLand-frontcover_small

Meet Stephen:

Stephen2006xStephen Swartz grew  up in Kansas City, Missouri where he dreamed of traveling the world. His  writing usually includes exotic locations, foreign characters, and smatterings
of other languages–strangers in strange lands. You get the idea: life imitating art. After studying music and composing a symphony, Stephen planned to be a music teacher before he decided to turn to a career in English and fiction writing. “I write first and foremost to entertain,” says Stephen, “and if readers
are able to escape into a fictional world I create, even for a short time, I smile long into the night!” Stephen now teaches English at a university in Oklahoma and continues to write fiction late at night.

THE DREAM LAND (December 2012) is an epic of interdimensional intrigue and world domination by a pair of well-meaning hedonists, marbled through with twisted humor and steampunk pathos, a patina of psychological thriller, and the quirky conundrums of time and space. Book I: Long Distance Voyager will be available December 2012 and Book II: Dreams of Future’s Past will be available in 2013. Book III: Diaspora is under
construction.

Blog: http://stephenswartz.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @StephenSwartz1

Mission

One of the challenges I faced when running the blog tour for the Heart Search launch was being asked to write a flash fiction Sci-Fi story for JB Lacaden’s blog. I’d never written in this genre before, but relished getting my teeth into something new. It’s good to step out of your comfort zone occasionally; it stretches you as a writer and give you the opportunity to explore your creative side in a different way. Anyway, here is the result. I hope you like it.

Mission

The ship landed in dense forest in the dead of night. They were safe in the knowledge the humans wouldn’t have been able to detect it on their antiquated radar systems or telescopes – their cloaking device and speed ensured that.

They had prepared well, studied the homo-sapiens and knew how they could blend in undetected. They pulled on their human skin suits, checking each other before exiting the craft.

Their mission was, to them, an easy one. All they had to do was obtain a particular stone and two humans carefully chosen from the millions inhabiting this tiny planet. Fortunately those they sought were in close proximity to each other, making their task that much easier. They held hands, concentrating on their first destination. A shimmering glow surrounded them and they vanished, reappearing in an alley in the middle of London just a few hundred yards from the building which was their target. They walked out onto the main street and gazed up at it.

The majestic towers and beauty of the ancient architecture were a source of amusement to the aliens; their world was so different with curved seamless buildings of white or silver, aesthetically pleasing to the eye, which glowed and glistened with light from the three suns orbiting their planet. The buildings all around them so dull in comparison; so laughable in the crude construction methods used.

“We must hurry. There is much to accomplish before their daylight begins,” the elder’s thoughts transmitted to his companion. The younger one nodded his agreement and together they closed their eyes picturing the room they needed to be in, another shimmer and they materialised in a room filled with locked cases containing crowns, coronets and tiaras which sparkled in the tiny nightlights in the ceiling. Spotting the sceptre, the younger alien smashed the case with his fist and grabbed it, a look of triumph on his face which quickly faded as a cacophony of sound assaulted their ears.

They heard footsteps approaching quickly and a jangle of keys, but the alarm made it difficult to concentrate; holding hands once more they closed their eyes and tried desperately to picture where they wanted to be next. Their attentiveness was compromised by the volume of sound around them and they pushed their powers to the limit. Just as the door opened, it worked and they disappeared right before the guard’s incredulous gaze.

Re-emerging in a quiet suburban street they breathed a sigh of relief; that was a close call and something they were totally unprepared for. They split up, one entering the home directly in front of them, the other a house further down on the opposite side of the road.

They emerged minutes later with sleeping children in their arms, one male and one female, both just pre-puberty. With victorious expressions they moved closer, closed their eyes and with the familiar shimmer vanished.

Laying the children in sleeping pods, they removed their human suits, and re-launched. They were returning home.

* * *

My first ever Sci-Fi story! It still amazes me how I respond to having a maximum word count and it sure is a great way of teaching a writer about self-editing and cutting extraneous words.

Monochrome or Colour?

 Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a monochrome world?

Photograph by Sheila Smart

It’s hard to imagine isn’t it?! Everywhere we look, we’re surrounded by colours; from nature, vehicles, advertisements, shops, soft furnishings and even our own clothes, and we take all this for granted because it’s always there. We don’t have to search it out because it’s everywhere we look.

 

 

But, indulge me for a moment . . . shut your eyes and try to picture everything around you purely in monochrome. It would be beyond boring to live in a world like that, with no colour to bring everything to life. It would be depressing to the nth degree!

That is what your writing is like if you don’t bring ‘colour’ into it.

There are so many ways you can do this:

Your characters

Physical descriptions. You don’t have to go overboard, but your readers want to have an image in their mind of what your main characters look like. Is your protagonist a slim, hazel eyed brunette or a chubby blue-eyed blonde? This is better than nothing – at least you’ve given something for the reader to work with, but by taking it just a little further, you can write a picture of how they appear. Imagine them in your mind’s eye then write what you see. You can always cut superfluous information (which would happen during the editing process anyway), but you’ve brought your character to life just by adding some colour. And don’t forget your characters don’t have to be flawless; they’re more real if they have a small defect or two (like a scar from a childhood accident, or a lazy eye, or one lip being out of proportion with the other).

Emotions. You need to show that your characters are ‘real’ by the way they react to certain situations – SHOW being with operative word here. “He was angry . . .” this phrase TELLS us something, but it has no colour. Now consider, “His skin flushed purple as his eyes narrowed, blazing with an icy fury and he clenched his fists so tight you could imagine the bones breaking through the skin . . .” Now you are showing the reader; you are giving them colour and an image they can relate to.

Gestures. I’m an observer of people and I tend to particularly watch expressions and mannerisms. Some people use their hands a lot when they talk, some pull on an ear lobe when they’re lying, some run their fingers through their hair when they’re thinking. Some people bend forward when they’re vehemently trying to get a point across or arguing. Imagine telling a friend a secret when there are others around and you don’t want them to hear – what do you do? You lean towards them and whisper in their ear – right? The point is people don’t just tend to stand like mannequins, with no movement at all apart from their lips when they speak. Use these sorts of things to add colour.

For extra examples and help, look back at my three-part series called Describing People;

Part 1 http://wp.me/p1UhOl-1K Part 2 http://wp.me/p1UhOl-1Y

Part 3 http://wp.me/p1UhOl-2N

Immediate surroundings

Again you don’t want to overdo it, but give your readers a flavour of where your characters are. Are they in a 17th century mansion? Are they in a 1960’s semi-detached house? Are they in a café or posh restaurant? Are they in a park, wood or forest? Pick out one or two features and describe them a little so your readers can picture the scene.

World Building

When you write fantasy or sci-fi, you especially need to bring your world to your reader as it’ll be somewhere they can’t relate to. Is the sky always purple during the day? Is the grass blue? Do the trees have strange coloured leaves? Do the flowers talk?

 I’m going to use a small example here from Tower of Bones by Connie J Jasperson and her world of Neveyah. Her main characters are on a quest and they are approaching a place called Mal Evol which has been taken over by a dark God. She describes the Mountains of the Moon where some of the face is as shiny and smooth as glass. The land approaching Mal Evol has been turned from fertile to poisoned soil which will only sustain thorn bushes and trees higher than the head of the tallest character on the quest. She describes strange Rat People who seem part human yet are vicious and attack for no reason, Thundercows which cannot be eaten by humans and will only eat the thorn bushes. And so the list goes on. Through her brilliant depiction and use of ‘colour’, she had brought her world of Neveyah to life. But the best thing is she hasn’t overdone it. She gives the reader just enough description in each place for them to form a picture, without detracting from the action.

A thorn forest

 All these elements brought together in your writing will add the colour a reader looks for. So from now on, is your writing going to be Monochrome or Colour?

My thanks to Connie for allowing me to use information from her novel to emphasise my point.