Voyage of the Dogsis a delightful space adventure that has many of the ingredients to ensure success. The cast of Barkonauts is varied in personality and physical attributes, but they all retain the most essential quality that dogs can offer – undying loyalty, selflessness, and love. We may be in the 22nd century, where both humans and dogs have been fitted with modifications to improve their inter-species communication, but the fundametal nobility of the dog shines through.
There are interesting comments on life and the interaction between humans and animals as we learn a bit of backstory from each of the space pups. Their ability to think independently is prized in this situation, but their pack love is strong. We also learn some interesting facts about space – sufficient to carry the plot without making us scratch our chins about how possible/impossible certain events would be. And anyway, it’s the 22nd century. Who can say?
This is a bit of a tear jerker, though not quite as dire as I feared when I realised that their spaceship is called the ‘Laika’.
Middle grade readers who love dogs OR space – but especially those who love dogs AND space – will thoroughly enjoy this wonderful book.
Those of us who are adults and still love dogs AND space love it too.
Exciting, engrossing, engaging and surprising: prolific UK writer Richard Dee and all his works can be described with these words. From life as a master mariner and Thames Estuary pilot to baking organic bread and writing sci-fi and steam punk, Richard Dee is one interesting man. In this post we’re going to hear a little about his process, and a bit more about what drives him. I’m so pleased to speak with Richard in today’s Last Word of the Week.
LWOTW: Welcome, Richard Dee! Do you remember when you wrote your first story?
Richard: In 1979, I wrote a short story about a farm in space. It eventually turned into my first novel; Freefall, in 2011-13. I guess that life got in the way there.
That’s quite a journey! Persistence and hanging onto the writing dream are very important, I think. Tell me, what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
A lot of my stories came from dreams. They still do, my upcoming adventure Life and Other Dreams is based on the possibility that our dreams may just be real.
I see all my stories develop, like watching a film in my head. I can rewind, and I can slow the playback to watch the story unfold slowly, but I can never fast forward to the end.
Because of that, I don’t bother trying to plan, I just type what I see and let the characters move my fingers around the keys. The ending will be as much of a surprise to you as it was to me!
That’s a wonderful method – quite like the visitation of a muse. You’re obviously a born writer. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Fame and fortune has sadly eluded me so far! My highlight is getting a good review from someone I’ve never met. And a royalty payment.
Good reviews are gold, aren’t they? Great to get – but I’m sure the fame and fortune would be nice too. What are you most busy with at the moment?
Developing an online course in world building.
Encouraging struggling writers with my Showcase series of blog posts, where I give new and Indie authors a platform.
Writing sequels, prequels, spin-offs and new work.
That’s a lot to be getting on with. Well done you! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Get the words down somewhere and more will flow. You can’t do much with great ideas if they stay in your head.
Excellent advice! And finally – the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Richard’s website is at richarddeescifi.co.uk. Head over there to see what he gets up to, click the FREE STUFF tab or the PORTFOLIO tab to get all the details about Richard’s work and pick up a free novel or short story.
Lachlan Walter, writer, science-fiction critic and nursery-hand (the garden kind, not the baby kind) is today’s guest on Last Word of the Week. Lachlan’s Australian post-apocalyptic novel is called The Rain Never Cameand his next book will be the Kaiju story-cycle We Call It Monster. Lachlan also writes science fiction criticism for Aurealismagazine and reviews for the independent ‘weird music’ website Cyclic Defrost. Lachlan’s short fiction can be found floating around online, and he has completed a PhD that explored the relationship between Australian post-apocalyptic fiction and Australian notions of national identity.
LWOTW: Welcome, Lachlan! Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.
Lachlan: To me, the distinction between wanting to be a writer and actually being a writer is psychological more than anything else. Being a writer means accepting the fact that you don’t have to write a blockbuster (and probably won’t) or churn out a book a year, but instead have to put in the work and make the sacrifices needed. Lots of people who want to be writers seem to see it as some kind of glamorous calling that doesn’t actually involve any real work, whereas the truth is that it’s often a slog involving persistence and tenacity, in which a thick skin is utterly invaluable. To touch on an old chestnut: writing is about perspiration, not inspiration.
In my case, I realised that I was actually a writer when found myself unable to step away from my work-in-progress of the time. I was putting in ten and twelve-hour days, turning a simple idea into a novel (and neglecting my oh-so-forgiving family and friends), and waking up each morning dead-keen to do it all over again. There were good days and bad days, but the important thing was that they were all writing days, and ever-so-slowly my first book was coming together. By the time I’d completed the first draft, this had become a routine – wake up, have breakfast, clean up, start writing – and was the equivalent of punching a clock or reporting for duty. And thus, I considered myself a writer.
Of course, it helps to have your work affirmed through publication, positive feedback, in-depth reviews and sales, but they aren’t strictly necessary. What matters is your work ethic, getting on with the job and creating a body of work that you can be proud of.
That’s an interesting analysis, thank you. For your writing, do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream that resulted in a good piece of writing, so let’s scratch that off the list, which leaves imagination and planning. Both are important, but planning is a skill that can be refined whereas imagination is intuitive, inspiring and seems to strike like the metaphorical lightning bolt. An example: I had the idea for my first book long before I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, which is more accurate though less poetic), but when I started writing it – and consequently started planning it – I really had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t until a fellow writer gently pointed out that my plan was a bit long – three books long, by their estimate – that I realised how much I had to learn about this underappreciated skill.
In other words, I rely more on my imagination than anything else, but it’s the planning that really matters.
That sounds like a good balance of imagination and organsation. So what’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
This would have to be a tie between having my first book accepted for publication, and having my second book accepted.
Having your first book accepted is an incredible feeling, as all authors would know – it’s a validation of your hard work, and confirmation that the idea behind it and the writing within it is solid and of a high quality. Everyone’s first book is a labour of love, something that’s been happily sweated over, something that contains a little bit of your heart and soul, and mine was no different. As mentioned, I had the idea for it long before I put pen to paper, and nurtured this idea like an obsessed gardener growing the fussiest plants from seed.
But once your first book has been published you realise that if you want to be a writer, you have to do it all over again from the beginning. This can be a struggle because you carry within you an expectation that your second book has to happen sooner rather than later, and you have to conceive it and work at it quickly and diligently, whereas the ideas and writing of your first book just seemed to come naturally and at its own pace. However, once it’s completed to your satisfaction, having it accepted for publication somehow proves that you’ve got what it takes to keep on writing.
That letter (or email) acceptance is such a joy, isn’t it? What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Finishing my third book, so that I can then get onto the next and the next after that and so on. I’m like most writers – I have more ideas than I do time to write them, and I just can’t wait to get them down and bring them to life.
Oh, yes, that’s the problem. Not where we get our ideas from but how to herd them! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Write, write and write some more – you can always be better, and the only way to achieve this is through dedication and work. And remember that not every piece of writing has to be a book: short stories, articles, reviews, blogs, criticism, they all help hone your talent.
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
The Doctor, without a doubt. He/she possesses everything that one would want in life, and that makes a good person: kindness, intelligence, inquisitiveness, childlike wonder, loyalty, a circle of loving friends who are loved in return, and a dedication to pacifism that only falters when absolutely necessary.
I thought you had a bit of a Tom Baker look about you! Thanks for speaking with me, Lachlan, and more power to your writing.
This is an amazing book, and I loved every minute of it.
It’s my first Becky Chambers and now I have to read more.
Here are my three top quotes:
“Yet it was a quiet grief, an everyday grief, a heaviness and a lightness all at once.”
“That’s how we’ll survive, even if not all of us do.”
“Our species doesn’t operate by reality. It operates by stories.”
Yes – now that is completely true.
I loved the cast of diverse characters/species and the plot threads that connected them all. I loved the worlds and the perspectives, and the clarity of this story. I was a little impatient with teenager Kip, but hey, that’s what teenagers are for! The alien viewpoints were also fascinating.
Today’s guest in Last Word of the Week is Jane O’Reilly, an English author whose SF writing I very much enjoy – the novels Blue Shift and Deep Blue, respectively numbers #1 and #2 in the Second Species trilogy. Jane has written in other genres too. Her space opera is being published by Hachette in Australia. I admire how prolific and witty Jane is across many platforms – see the links at the end of the interview.
Last Word of the Week: Welcome, Jane, it’s a pleasure to have you here. Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Jane: The first one (not including all the ones I wrote at school) was about 9 years ago. I had been at home with my children for several years and had reached the stage where I’d started to feel like my brain was dissolving. I needed something to challenge me mentally, but it had to be something that I could do at home that wouldn’t cost a lot of money. I had read somewhere that Nora Roberts had started writing when she’d been at home with young children so I decided I was going to give it a try.
LWOTW: Good plan! So, what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
My dreams are weird, my imagination is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help, and planning is key. Lots of writers like to pretend that stories are built using some sort of magical ability which only they possess, but I don’t think that’s true. A story has form and function which is why you can write 100K but not actually have written a story. I didn’t plan my first few manuscripts because I didn’t understand any of this. Once I began to learn about story structure I also began to plan, not just because it is really helpful, but because I understood how.
LWOTW: That bit about planning sounds like something I should consider a bit more often. I know you’ve had a deal of success, but what’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Definitely seeing one of my books in a bookshop for the first time. That’s really exciting. I had been digitally published for several years (11 titles in total) before I got an agent and a paperback deal, so seeing my book in a bookshop represented a massive step forward. It was in a bookshop called Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London.
LWOTW: I would love to see mine there one day! Jane, what are you most busy with at the moment?
I just finished the third book in my space opera trilogy so I’m waiting for my agent to let me know what she thinks of it, and in the meantime I’m working on a new book. No title as yet but it’s about a woman who discovers that her neighbour is an alien. She finds herself being taken off planet with said neighbour (who is not exactly thrilled with the situation) and adventures and shenanigans ensue. It’s a bit like Jupiter Ascending (with added space dinosaurs).
LWOTW: Space dinosaurs! What could be better? Now, if you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Getting published isn’t a quick business despite how many stories you see of people in their early 20s being signed for a six figure sum from a partial straight out of university. It can take years and multiple manuscripts before you sell your first one and that’s OK.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?