Saturday, July 7, 2012

Say Hello to My 200th Followers!

Yes, you read that correctly, because TWO lovely ladies, book reviewer Misty Rayburn and author Friday Baldwin, both joined this blog at the same time, therefore I had no choice but to proclaim them both as my 200th follower. So, now that I have them here, whatever shall I do with them? Hmm...of course!

A combined interview! Am I smart, or what? (Don't answer that.)

My not-so-evil twin!
First up is a gal I lovingly call my not-so-evil twin, Misty Rayburn. She's the owner of a book review site called The Top Shelf. Now that you're back in your evil twin's lair, Misty, tell us a little bit about The Top Shelf and what services you provide there.

The list would be shorter of what we don't do! We do reviews, question and answer sessions, interviews, spotlights for books and trailers, participate in book tours and we even have a chat room.  There are a bunch of things in the works too!  We're going to be pulling in my fiancee Brandon to do audio book reviews.  

Now, your evil twin and her readers want to know what makes Misty tick. When you're not reading and reviewing, what do you like to do?

A lot of things.  I like to bake and am always looking for something different to try.  Right now I'm playing around with making no-bake cookies with splenda since I'm on a low carb diet.  I'm an avid gamer and right now I'm playing Devil May Cry.  I also like to roleplay in my online wrestling federation that I've been running for almost seven years. if you'd like to check it out.

How many books have you reviewed since starting The Top Shelf?

I have reviewed around 48 books.  I have a few that I've read but haven't written the reviews for yet too.

And what's your very favorite genre?

I used to be a hardcore fantasy addict.  Once in a while I'd read a thriller.  Since becoming a reviewer, I'm finding I don't really have a favorite genre anymore.  There's just so many great reads out there!

Good, good, now begone with you for a minute. Friday has been waiting oh, so patiently. Since this is your first time on Unwritten, I'll be especially brutal. Hee hee. Before we get into anything writing related, tell us all about Friday--yourself, not the day of the week.

In case anyone doesn’t already know, Marjorie “Friday” Baldwin is a pen name. My pen namesake is the title character of a famous Robert A. Heinlein book whose likeness was painted by the inimitable Michael Whelan. Who would I have to kill to get a Michael Whelan cover like that?! There aren’t enough people in the world; Whelan retired. Heinlein is dead. Friday lives on. She and her story (told in the 1989 novel of that same name) really influenced me as both a person and as a writer. Plus, I cannot believe no one took that pen name before me! Woot! You can learn more about me on my Amazon Author Profile or by friending me on Goodreads or friend me on Facebook. I am also the person tweeting behind @phoenicianbooks on Twitter so if you want to ask me a specific question, that’s a quick way to reach me. Basically, I’m a middle-aged woman hiding behind that very sexy avatar—and loving the costume!

I've got this book waiting on my Kindle called Conditioned Response, and I see it's part of a sci-fi series called The Phoenician Series. Give us the scoop on this book and the series as a whole.

The Phoenician Series is a Classic SciFi saga. These are gritty stories, told in the style of mysteries and thrillers with a little bit of sexy romance tossed in for good measure. These stories are not space-borne adventures and while there are aliens (Phoenicians), the non-humans look and act very human. In fact, the how and why the Phoenicians seem so human is part of the mystery revealed across the series. It’s all part of the Plan of the Seven Chiefs. Unraveling the Plan (capital “P”) is the story of the series. Each book, of course, has its own standalone story.

The entire series was written in the 1980s and I am editing the books now to make them publishable. The first one used to be Conditioned Response and then during editing, I created a new “tossaway” character name Raif. The rest, as they say, was history.

Buy it HERE!
Raif requires his own book, which will be a “prequel,” so I renumbered the books and Conditioned Response is now called Book 2. The plot of Conditioned Response centers around an alien girl named Shayla, who isn’t really very fond of humans despite having lived among our kind half her life—or maybe her dislike for us is because she was forced to do exactly that. She’s given up everything “normal” in her Phoenician world to become one of us. Conditioned Response is told, primarily, from her alien point of view.

Raif, our Uber Alpha Hero guy, is the other primary point of view character, though there is a large cast of characters in this book—and in the series overall. You’ll see characters reappear throughout the series but one of the central characters ongoing in the series is “borne” in Conditioned Response (which is why this used to be Book 1).
His name is Charlie and he’s an Artificial Lifeform, much like my pen namesake in her book, but I didn’t want to call this book “Charlie” (even ignoring the fact “Flowers for Algernon” was reissued under that name). Instead, Conditioned Response is a reference back to Charlie’s “first” name.

Heinlein’s book was deeply influential in developing the character that became Charlie. As the book unfolds, you get to know these 3 main characters and a couple of villains (gotta have a villain, right? or who do we kill?). The story itself has political intrigue, cultural clashes and romantic trappings. There is explicit sex more than there is a love story though I think the love story of Raif and Shayla is kind of epic. Unfortunately, it’s doomed before it begins.

By the time you reach The End, I can guarantee you’ll have been on an emotional roller coaster. This book sure dragged me through the ringer to write and edit it. Even the 20th time I read it while proofreading, I cried, I laughed, I got angry and somehow just felt the story had gotten inside my head. Like Adjustments. Who knows? Maybe they’re real and we just don’t know it! (LOL)

Who lives and who dies, who gets the girl—or who the girl gets—is the fun of reading this tome. It’s a long book, as is the rest of the series, but it reads quickly, at least once you get into it. My readers so far tell me it reads slowly at the start and then flies all of a sudden, without letting up on the relentless pace until The End. Then you’ll want more. Hah. Not to worry, there’s more to come!

When did you begin writing this series, and what spurred your love of sci-fi?

I began—and finished—writing the books in the 1980s as noted above. I chose SF as a genre because it’s what I love to read. The first SF story I ever read was Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and The Stars. Then I discovered Asimov and then, I was totally hooked when I found Robert A. Heinlein. His very conversational style and easy-to-understand language was unusual for the time and genre. I loved the way he speculated in his “What if….” stories. Heinlein made everything sound so plausible and immediate. His stories could have been written down the street, around the corner and in the middle of next week—but you always knew they weren’t.

I wanted to do that with my writing. If I’d found an author in another genre who wrote such imaginative, easy-to-read stories with intensely-vibrant characters, I’d probably want to write like them as well. Actually, I have found such an author and she writes Science Fiction and Fantasy (see below for who this author is). I dislike Fantasy genre, though, because of the suspension of disbelief requirement and strange creatures. Sorry my little Elvin Hostess but I don’t like elves. I like my pointy ears on Vulcans only (LOL)

Besides sci-fi, do you write or read any other genres?

I love children’s fairy tales—even as an adult! I would love to write some children’s fiction at some point in my writing career, but my prolific tendencies are my big obstacle. Children under eight (8) don’t read 100,000 word novels, let alone 200k epic tomes like the stuff I write.

One day, though, I think I’d like to try to write something magical like The Twelve Dancing Princesses or The Swan Princess. Those are stories that are still with me at 50 something. I’d like to write something to touch a child’s imagination that same way. I just need to learn how to write less! Hah!

What else do I read? I read all kinds of things. The two genres I won’t touch are horror and fantasy. That includes not only High Fantasy, but urban fantasy or paranormal or anything with weird creatures of the night (or another dimension). I think anything with pointy ears should be Vulcan and not have any mystical powers (sorry my Elven Hostess) and I definitely do not like hybrid creatures that are weird for the sake of shock value.

I very much like classic suspense and mainstream mystery (crime fiction), but definitely not horror or thriller/chiller stuff intended to shock and disgust with the splatterpunk style blood and gore. I write some pretty gruesome violence in my own books, but not just to have gratuitous violence. I don’t like to be terrorized and most horror and thriller stuff is just trying to scare the bejeezus out of readers so they don’t appeal to me. I need more story. I like to be gripped and unable to put the book down. That’s why I like mysteries over suspense, though well-done spy thriller/mysteries are the best! One day, I’d like to try to write a mystery/crime fiction story without any aliens or futuristic stuff.

Could you give us an excerpt from The Phoenician Series?

Sure. In fact, I’m nearly done writing a short story called When Minds Collide, which is specifically designed to give readers a taste of the series and my writing style. When Minds Collide is set 400 years prior to the rest of the series books, and tells the story of how Joshua Andrew Caine came into being. He didn’t always exist the way he is in Conditioned Response. The story in When Minds Collide is summarized near the end of Conditioned Response­ when Joshua and Shayla are sitting in the car, talking. You’ll know the scene when you get there. Read more details of that story in When Minds Collide.
I’ll be giving When Minds Collide away for FREE through the Amazon KDP Select Program, so it’ll have to be exclusive to Amazon Kindle customers for 3 months before I can distribute it for FREE everywhere else via Smashwords. That means by October or November it should show up in iTunes, Kobo, Nook, etc., and it’ll be FREE everywhere. I’ve got an excerpt of the opening paragraphs on my Goodreads blog here, and once it’s published, that’ll link through to the entire story, downloadable for FREE from the Amazon Kindle store.

Let's do something fun. Instead of ME asking you two a random question, I'm going to let you ask each other. Serves ya right for tying as 200th follower! I'm evil like that.

Misty, what's your question for Friday? Who is your favorite author and why?

Easy peasy. Lois McMaster Bujold, Author of the Vorkosigan Saga, one of the finest space opera, action/adventure, Romantic SF series ever written. Lois not only writes extremely well-crafted stories peopled with vibrant characters who have flaws, but her settings are so deeply-textured as to nearly be characters unto themselves. I always know when I read a Bujold, it’s going to be a good story, well-written and provoke some thoughtfulness or emotion from me (or both!) I also know it’s quite likely I’ll be reading her stories more than once—they’re that good! Lois also has an incredibly dry wit which often makes me laugh aloud while reading.
Any author who can make me break my silent reader’s trance to burst into laughter is well-worth checking out! Oh and Lois just published a new entry in the Vorkosigan Saga, which is available as an unproofed eARC from Baen eBooks but Ivan, His Booke (actual title is Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance) won’t be on sale in stores like Amazon until October or November. I simply couldn’t wait that long for a new Bujold. Yes. She’s that good.

And Friday, what's your question for Misty? Who's your favorite author and why?

Wow that's a tough question.  I'll split it into two parts, mainstream author and indie author.  Mainstream author is Mercedes Lackey.  Her Valdemar series is just amazing reading and it branches off in so many ways.  I think I will honestly cry when she's done filling in the gaps.   Indie author is Candace Bowen Early.  You've seen that book hangover post running around on Facebook?  Well that applies here.  Her books are just so colorful and vibrant.  The characters are just brilliant and her grasp on the time period she writes in just draws you in that much more.  You won't want to start anything new for a bit because you'll still be thinking about the world you just left.

Thank you so much for having me here on the Unwritten, Mysti. It’s a spelling test to see if I can keep you two straight, right? Well, it was fun! Thank you so much!

You girls were very brave to make your appearance here today. I do wish you BOTH much success!!


  1. Misty (is that the right spelling? I really can't keep you two straight!) my CO-INTERVIEWEE :) I had no idea you were a baker. I am, too! Addictively. But how can you possibly bake and also be on a low-carb diet. That's gotta be an oxymoron!

    I have a bazillion recipes so tell me what kind of high-carb, sugary, fatty, terrible-for-you-but-tastes-like heaven flavor you're in the mood for and I'll share my favorite recipe.

    Right now, I'm thinking of either glazed pecan cinnamon buns (a yeast roll so they count as "real" food, right?) or for something chocolately, I have this incredibly easy one-bowl chocolate cake with a ganache topping that seriously comes close to a Classic Death By Chocolate cake...of course it takes at least 3 kinds of chocolate to cause death so this one-bowl cake doesn't actually count. And there's no butter (just oil) so it's low-fat right? Yeah, the lies I tell myself!

    I don't bake often anymore (too fattening as I love my baking) but when I do, it's to send OUT OF THE HOUSE over to the hot and sandy (I bake for the troops so I get to eat *ONE* and send the rest far, far away) I think after this recent move of residences and all of its hassles, not to mention getting as much writing done as I have, I need some kind of reward.

    Nice to meetcha' Misty! Check out Conditioned Response and lemme know if you wanna read/review it. I'll make you a coupon.


  2. You MUST share this chocolate cake recipe, Friday! As a bonafide chocoholic, I demand it!!! :p

  3. I generally use Parkay 0 everything butter in my baking. It's $2.99 a container and you usually only get about a cup out of each one but I love it. Just one of those expensive things I have to have. I also mess around with half sugar substitute / half sugar at times. Then the other times I just cheat! HAHAHA! :)


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