A-Z Challenge: P is for Producer


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All bow down to the genius of Joss Whedon!

Actually, I want to tell you about one of the Executive Producers as I opted not to include him under either of his initials but he’s entirely deserving of mention. Indeed, one cannot think of Firefly without thinking of Joss Whedon who not only was Executive Producer of the show, he created the concept, wrote the scripts, and composed the theme music.

Whedon has been involved in some of the very best cult television, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, s well as directing films such as The Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods. Fans, however, tend to think of Firefly as his magnum opus – an epic space-western drama with his trademark sense of tongue-in-cheek, self-aware humour. Indeed, Firefly and Serenity took first and second place respectively in New Scientist Magazine’s 2005 poll to find The World’s Best Space Sci-Fi Ever.

Firefly is constantly referenced in other shows, for example, Dr Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) is a fan and part of the room mate agreement that Friday nights be reserved for watching Firefly (he was under the impression that the show would run for years. Unfortunately, that was not to be!). Nathan Fillion’s current show, Castle, has also made numerous references to Firefly – Castle appeared in a “space cowboy” costume one Halloween (his daughter claimed it was “So five yeas ago!”), and characters have been spotted sporting blue latex gloves to crime scenes.

Without Whedon, there would be no Firefly, no Browncoats, and no A-Z challenge theme for me this year! The man is, quite clearly, a genius!

A-Z Challenge: O is for The Operative


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Calmly kills for the Alliance
and always cleans his sword

When it comes to being completely aloof, there’s one person who springs to mind, and that is The Operative (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor). This guy is cool as a cucumber – nothing ruffles his feathers and he will always get his man in the end. The thing is, he’s incredibly intelligent and can get inside the heads of those he’s after, so he can easily anticipate their next move.

Of course, he’s never met the crew of Serenity before and there’s someone on board who is more than a little out of the ordinary. It just so happens that’s the very person he’s trying to recapture.

The Operative works directly for the parliament of The Alliance, and although he has no official name or rank, he has “access all areas” firmly stamped on his theoretical card – there is literally nowhere he cannot go and nothing he cannot do – he can act with impunity so long as he gets the job done.

And that’s what makes him so scary – he does his job extremely well and has absolutely no remorse, no emotion, no conscience – he’s almost robotic in his pursuit of duty.

That said, he’s incredibly eloquent and can easily make others think twice about their own actions and encourages them to take responsibility for their choices. He would dearly love to create a better world – a world without sin – and if that means he has to execute others for that cause, then so be it – he’ll do so, usually with a sword, a serene countenance, and a courteous conversation beforehand. He is a most elegant killer!

BLOG TOUR: An interview with Andra Watkins


To-Live-ForeverAs part of the blog tour for To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I asked the author, Andra Watkins, a few questions which she was kind enough to take time out of her very busy schedule to answer. Thank you, Ms Watkins!

Kell: To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis has been described as a genre-bending novel. How would you describe it and on which bookshop shelf would you place it?
Andra: I call it a genre-bending novel. It’s a mix of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense/adventure fiction. Some readers have described it as magical realism and as young adult. At the end of the day, I fear we are too hung up on categories. I just tried to write a book I’d always wanted to read, and I hope other readers will feel the same way.

Kell: The novel is a great concept – what first gave you the spark of an idea to write the story, and what was your greatest inspiration when writing it?
Andra: Thank you! I first thought about writing the book when I was working in Nashville. I was rushing to a meeting in the West End. When I looked to my right, there was the Parthenon, this historic end of the Natchez Trace. I looked to my left, and there was a tiny road sign that read “Natchez Tr.” I started thinking about how Meriwether Lewis died on the Trace, and my imagination took it from there.

Kell: Research is a large part of a writer’s work. How long did you spend on research for this novel, and do you enjoy that side of writing? What do you enjoy best of all when writing?
Andra: I read academic works and biographies for several months as research for this novel. I also drove the entire Natchez Trace over two separate trips, and I spent time in New Orleans, both touring sites for the book and interviewing people who’d lived there for decades. I’ve always been a history geek, but I never wanted to write straight historical fiction. A book like To Live Forever gives me the ability to dive into research and still make up a new story, which is the kind of writing I enjoy best of all.

Kell: Do you enjoy the promotional side of things, such as public readings and signings? If so, which has been your most enjoyable experience?
Andra: I’m a former stage actress (Kell: Ooh, me too! How exciting!), so promotional things are really fun for me. Parnassus Books in Nashville hosted me for an author event and book signing, and I was honored that they chose me. I loved meeting readers and hearing their stories. That’s the best thing about writing: meeting the people whose lives are touched by my words.

Kell: Can you tell us a little about what other work you have in the pipeline?
Andra: To launch To Live Forever, I was the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. I did it in 34 days. Because my novel is about a girl’s relationship with her father, I took my almost-80-year-old father along on the trip. I’m writing a memoir called Not Without My Father, about the importance of taking the time to have a five-week adventure with my father at the end of his life. It will be available Fall 2014. I’m also working on a sequel to To Live Forever, which will be available Spring 2015.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m very excited to hear about that forthcoming sequel!

My thanks, again, to Ms Watkins and her PR team for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

See Andra Watkins’ guest blog post at Kincavel Krosses HERE.

Visit Andra Watkins’ own blog HERE.

 

A-Z Challenge: N is for Niska


Firefly-Niska

Don’t let his age and smile fool you:
Niska is about to get nasty!

If you really need a crime lord to avoid, Adelei Niska (played by Michael Fairman) is your man. He has a reputation for ruthlessness and violence – and it’s warranted – cross him at your peril! I gt the feeling that Niska’s favourite “classic” movie (well, we are 500 years in the future!) would be Reservoir Dogs, as he thinks nothing of torturing people and cutting off their ears.

When Mal and the crew get on his wrong side, it’s disastrous. Even though the crew were trying to do the right thing by others (come on, they might be criminals, but they do have morals and consciences!), it is expressly against the wishes of Niska, sending them spiraling into a whole world of hurt…

A-Z Challenge: M is for Miranda


Miranda

A teensy wee clue about Miranda…

Look at that – we’re half way through the challenge already! OK, so let’s crack on…

Miranda is something of a mystery (oh, look at that – another “M” word!). I don’t really want to spoil things for anyone who hasn’t watched the show and film (Serenity, made in 2005, follows on where the series left off), but I can state, without being too revealing, that Miranda plays a major part in the plot of the film.

The secret of Miranda is such that it has affected the entire Firefly ‘Verse. It’s scary stuff and explains an awful lot, but that’s pretty much all I can say without ruining it for those who haven’t already seen it. The rest of you, well. you know what I’m talking about!

BOOK BLAST: 1066: What Fates Impose by G. K. Holloway


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1066: What Fates Impose by G. K. Holloway

Publication Date: March 4, 2013
Matador Publishing

1066 What Fates Impose by G K HollowayKing William then utters the following words to the room: ‘I appoint no one as my heir to the Crown of England, but leave it to the disposal of the Eternal Creator, whose I am and who orders all things. For I did not attain that high honour by hereditary right, but wrested it from the perjured King Harold in a desperate bloody battle.’

England is in crisis. King Edward has no heir and promises never to produce one. There are no obvious successors available to replace him, but quite a few claimants are eager to take the crown. While power struggles break out between the various factions at court, enemies abroad plot to make England their own. There are raids across the borders with Wales and Scotland.

Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, is seen by many as the one man who can bring stability to the kingdom. He has powerful friends and two women who love him, but he has enemies will stop at nothing to gain power. As 1066 begins, England heads for an uncertain future. It seems even the heavens are against Harold.

Intelligent and courageous, can Harold forge his own destiny – or does he have to bow to what fates impose?

Buy the Book

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GK HollowayAbout the Author

I have been interested in history since I was a boy, which I suppose explains why, when I came across a degree course in History and Politics at Coventry University that looked tailor made for me, I applied right away.

In my first year at Coventry I lived in the halls of residence within a stone’s throw of the Leofric Hotel. In the opposite direction, just a short walk from my halls, is the bell tower that houses a clock, which when its bell chimes the hour, produces a half size model of naked Lady Godiva riding a horse for the titillation of tourists. Above her, Peeping Tom leans out of a window for a better view. In all of the three years I was there, it never once occurred to me that I would one day write a book featuring Earl Leofric and his famous wife, as key players.

After graduating I spent a year in Canada before I returned to England to train as a Careers Officer in Bristol. Later, I lived and worked in Gloucestershire as a Careers Officer and then in Adult Education as an Education Guidance worker.

After I met my wife, I moved back to Bristol to live and I worked at Bath Spa University as a Student Welfare Officer for a number of years. It was about this time I read a biography about King Harold II which fascinated me so much I read more and more about the man and the times. I found the whole pre-conquest period of England so interesting I couldn’t understand why no one had written a novel about it. So, I decided to write one myself. Now, after many years of study and time spent over a hot keyboard, I have finally produced thatnovel.

1066: What Fates Impose is the result of all that study and hard work and is the first book I’ve written. I am now working on a sequel.

A-Z Challenge: L is for Love


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Love is all around,
and is the most powerful force in the ‘Verse!

Love is a theme that runs throughout the series, without it ever actually becoming the main focus, so it never overwhelms the individual plots or story-arcs and never lands the show in romance territory. There are many kinds of love portrayed here – love between siblings; unrequited love between various members of the crew as well as a very solid marriage between two of them; the platonic familial-type of love the crew have for one another; and the love of the ship they call home. There’s also the love of freedom, which is constantly threatened by the Alliance.

Finally, there is the love the fans have for the show. There was a HUGE outcry when the series was cancelled almost before it even got a chance to find its feet, but it quickly, through word of mouth, became a cult classic. Firefly remains a show that never jumped the shark, as it wasn’t given a long enough run to ever risk that happening. Even with the short run of only 14 completed episodes, it is a firm favourite with sci-fi fans and the number of Browncoats is always growing!

Firefly will always hold a special place in our hearts.

A-Z Challenge: K is for Kaylee Frye


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Kaylee Frye
The heart of the crew and the one
who keeps the ship in the sky!

Her full name is something of a mouthful; Kaywinnet Lee Frye, AKA Kaylee is the mechanic aboard Captain Reynold’s ship. Kaylee (played by Jewel Staite) actually came to the position by chance – the guy who got the job pulled her and tried to seduce her in the engine room (she has a bit of a thing for all things mechanical!). When they were caught by the Captain, it transpired she knew waaaaay more than the guy he’d hired, so he promptly fired him and hired Kaylee in his place.

It was a move that would save the ship and the crew on numerous occasions, as if it weren’t for Kaylee, there’s no way that craft would still be in the sky! She knows exactly how to patch things up with minimal supplies and will always do her level best to get things done swiftly, despite having no formal training.

On top of that, Kaylee is an eternal optimist. She has the sunniest disposition in the ‘Verse and always sees the best in people and situations – she’s always the one saying, “Ev’rything’s shiny!”

Despite being a grease monkey, Kaylee also loves “girly” things and will go weak at the knees at the chance to dress up for a shindig in a frilly pink dress, even if her tastes are not what most women in high society would choose. Still, she’s so sweet that I would personally like to whack anyone who would put her down right in the face and tell them to shut up! This girl knows how to find pleasure in the simple things in life and if life hands her lemons, not only would she make lemonade, but she’d make a zingy citrus cheesecake and a lemon drizzle cake too. Not literally, you understand – she prefers the engine room to the kitchen!

With a ready smile and a warm welcome, Kaylee is the kind of gal who instantly becomes your best friend. She’s actually my favourite character in the whole show.

A-Z Challenge: J is for Jayne Cobb


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He carries a big gun. And wears a hideous hat.
Don’t mess with him!

The hero of Canton:, the man they call Jayne!

Anyone who knows the man in question would laugh out loud to hear him called a hero. The truth is, he’s the most mercenary member of the crew and would sell out his mother for the right price.

Well, maybe not his mother – he actually sends some of his ill-earned gains back home to Mother and proudly wears the orange-striped woolly monstrosity of a hat she sends him, because a man walks down the street with a hat like that, people know he’s not afraid of anything!

Played by Adam Baldwin (no relation to Alec, Billy or Stephen of the same surname!), Jayne has more than a passing fondness for weaponry, and even affectionately calls his favourite gun (a Callahan full-bore auto-lock with a customized trigger, double cartridge and thorough gauge) Vera. If you’re in a jam, Jayne is one crazy, well-armed guy you’d want by your side – unless the other guy who wants to kill you offers him more money. That’s exactly how he joined Mal’s crew, after all!

Blog Tour: Serpents in the Garden by Anna Belfrage (The Graham Saga #5)


Serpents-in-the-GardenTitle: Serpents in the Garden (The Graham Saga #5)
Author: Anna Belfrage
ISBN: 978-1781321737
Publisher: SilverWood
First Published: 27 February 2014 (Kindle) / 1 March 2014 (Paperback)
No .of pages: 396

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
‘Serpents in the Garden’ is the fifth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham. After years of hard work, Matthew and Alex Graham have created a thriving home in the Colony of Maryland. About time, in Alex’s opinion, after far too many adventures she is really looking forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet. A futile hope, as it turns out. Things start to heat up when Jacob, the third Graham son, absconds from his apprenticeship to see the world – especially as Jacob leaves behind a girl whom he has wed in a most irregular fashion. Then there’s the infected matter of the fellow time traveller Alex feels obliged to help – no matter the risk. Worst of all, one day Philip Burley and his brothers resurface after years of absence. As determined as ever to make Matthew pay for every perceived wrong – starting with the death of their youngest brother – the Burleys play out a complicated cat and mouse game, and Alex is thrown back into an existence where her heart is constantly in her mouth, convinced as she is that one day the Burleys will achieve their purpose. Will the Burleys succeed? And if they do, will the Graham family survive the exacted price?

Review:
I only came to this series of books at the fourth novel (see my review HERE) but found it surprisingly easy to pick them up from this point and not be lost to what went before (indeed, it has made me resolve to go back and read the others on account of the story and writing being so good!).

This is the fifth book in The Graham Saga and it is every bit as good as the previous installment – I suspect the whole series is of the same level, as Belfrage’s writing has thus far been of a consistently high calibre that should be the envy of many other authors: She achieves, seemingly with ease, what all writers strive to reach, but is often out of their grasp.

Our favourite characters return; Alex and Matthew Graham continue to carve a life for themselves and their ever increasing family in The New World, but their past is catching up with them and old feuds are resurrected by the return of the Burleys (ooh, how much would I like to get my hands on those guys and wring their necks myself?!); their third son runs off to sea, but not before creating complications with the girl he loves; and other family trials are threatening to tear the family apart. Is there anything life won’t throw at these good people? It makes for gripping reading and I found myself often on the edge of my seat, never wanting to put down the book, even when other things in life demanded my immediate attention – that’s exactly what a good book should do to readers!

I find myself wondering if Belfrage can put a foot wrong with this series? It would seem not, and I, for one, am incredibly glad we have another three books of the saga still to be published – I can hardly wait to get my hands on them! Till then, I shall content myself by going back to the beginning and reading the series from the very start…

See my interview with Anna Belfrage HERE.

See Anna Belfrage’s guest post HERE.