Thursday, July 2, 2015

New Release -- Darkhaven by AFE Smith

Out today: DARKHAVEN

Darkhaven cover
About the Book: 
Book title: DARKHAVEN
Author: A.F.E. Smith
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: 2 July 2015 (ebook), 14 January 2016 (paperback)
Price: £1.99/$3.99 (ebook)


Book description:
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

Buy links 

Amazon (global link)
Barnes & Noble
Google play



A.F.E. Smith photo
About the Author:

A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

Author social media links
DARKHAVEN on Goodreads

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Excerpt from New Novel

For any who might be interested, I thought I'd post a teaser excerpt from the first chapter of the new novel I'm working on. It's a far future sci-fi set on a colony planet in another solar system. It's tentatively titled Penthesilea, and I'm sure it will change quite a lot before it is done!


The morning of her thirteenth birthday, Keng entered the family room to accept the embraces and kisses of her mothers.  She had bubbled with excitement for weeks, knowing something special would happen today, though no one, not even the habitual gossips, would do more than drop hints.  Her oldest mother, Adanya, smelled faintly of cloves as she drew Keng close in her thin arms and whispered in her ear, “I’m so proud of you, first child of Themis.  Always so many questions.  Now today some can be answered.”  Adanya kissed her cheek and held Keng out at arm’s length, eyes shiny with tears.

Keng was afraid to respond in case her voice broke.  She took a deep breath and used the moment to scan the faces in the room.  Naturally Mother Slade was not there.  All twelve of her other mothers, but not her favorite.  Keng had hoped that today would see a change in the way Slade treated her.  If not when Keng was officially counted as a woman grown then when?

Mother Zahra looked at her with her lips quirked in a smirk.  “Why so sad?  It’s your special day.”

“I think you know,” Keng whispered.

“Oh, we all know, young lady,” Zahra said.  “So much warmth and love in this family, and the one you miss is she who so rarely speaks a word to you or deigns to glance your way.  Perhaps if I beat you I would be your favorite?”  Keng didn’t need Zahra’s grin to know she was at least half joking.

“I’m sorry, Mothers,” Keng said to the gathering.  “I only thought that today perhaps I could see my whole family together for once.”

She watched the smiles as her mothers passed glances around the room.  Something was up.  Keng wished they would just get on with it.  She didn’t like surprises.

“We’re sorry to tease you so,” Mother Hasinah said.  “It is only that we know today you will get something that you have long wanted, so we are happy.  Go to the roof garden, love.  Your gift is there.”

Keng suppressed the urge to immediately head for the stairs and completed her round of the room, accepting hugs and congratulations from the rest of her mothers.  On her way out the door, she spotted one of the cats lazing near the bottom of the steps and scooped him up.  “Come, Mouser.  Let’s see what the big surprise is.”

The stairs to the roof garden rose only a single story since her family’s home lay near the edge of the great dome.  Keng sometimes wished she were lucky enough to live near the center in one of tall buildings, and every so often she took the long trudge up the stairs of one of the tallest in order to stare out over the entire colony.  She had read of doll houses during her studies, and if she lay on the edge fifteen stories up and looked down, she could pretend that all of Panthesilea was her own personal doll house.

Every building had rank upon rank of gardens, helping to feed the colonists, along with the farms that Keng had heard lay outside of the dome.  Her own gardens were meagre, given that the home was a mere one story.  It primarily consisted of hydroponic fruits and vegetables, though several of the mothers insisted on a few types of flowers as well.  Keng reached the top of the stairs and fell quickly to her knees, for she saw Mother Slade performing her exercises near the central fountain and she knew the security chief disliked being disturbed.  “Go on, cat,” she hissed, and dropped Mouser on the top step, where the gray furred beast scurried right back down the way they had come.

Keng liked to try to sneak up on Slade, but she had never once succeeded in catching her unawares.  From her knees, Keng peered under a row of hanging grapes and watched as the slim but muscular figure flowed through a series of lunges and blocks and kicks.  Except for eyelashes, Slade was hairless, which always made Keng think of her as looking both young and old at the same time.  Keng wished to learn martial arts as well.  They seemed far more interesting than the usual gardening and sewing performed by most of her mothers, or the Tai Chi most of the women did each morning out on the lawns.  Usually by now Slade would have halted her routine and glared at Keng until she departed, but this time Slade went on punching and sliding as if she were unaware of Keng’s presence.  Keng recalled that her present was supposed to be here.  She looked at the benches near the fountain but could see no sign of a package.  A moment later, Slade completed her routine and bowed to some invisible opponent before turning to Keng and crooking a finger at her.

Keng was surprised. 
 It was the first time Slade had ever invited her to approach.  Cautiously Keng rose to her feet and skirted the garden rows until she came to the patch of grass near the fountain.  There she halted and remained silent.

Slade stood straight and still as a statue, remaining expressionless for so long that Keng wondered if she was meant to speak first.  As she debated on what she might say, Slade spoke at last.  “Thirteen.”

Keng nodded.

Slade had a deeper voice than most women, but she always spoke in a soft manner, even when angry.  “I’ve been tasked with providing your birthday gift.”

Keng wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so she remained silent.

“Come,” Slade said, and stalked past Keng toward the stairs.

Keng scurried to catch up and fell into place a meter behind as they descended.  Instead of turning into the house, Slade passed on, and Keng understood that they must be headed toward the security hut near the edge of the dome.  That made Keng smile.  She had always been forbidden from entering the ten meter protective zone circling the inner perimeter of the dome.

As they drew near the security hut, Slade motioned for Keng to stop, while she continued on.  The hut’s door slid aside and Slade reached in and pulled forth two backpacks.  Now Keng’s heartbeat raced and she gave a little hop in place.  At last she was going to get to see the world outside the dome.  Slade passed her a pack, and she felt the lumpy, hard-packed exterior with one hand before slipping it over her shoulders.

They stood near the edge of the dome, just off the paved road used by the auto-haulers that brought in supplies from the factories and farms outside.  It was the nature of the dome that Keng could never catch a glimpse of the outside world, even when trucks were passing through.  Her studies had taught her about the material used to create the dome, a synthetic substance that everyone called anaglass.  Keng had never before been so close to it.  She wanted to reach out and touch it, but she didn’t dare with Slade standing nearby.

“We’ll pass through in a moment,” Slade said, “but first prepare yourself.”

Keng wasn’t sure what Slade meant, so she took a moment to gather her thoughts.  She knew what she should see beyond the dome, but studying something is far different from seeing the reality.  The nearby surface of the dome shimmered and swirled with a deep blue that reminded her of Mother Magda’s tea cups.  It looked solid, yet on a daily basis Keng watched auto-haulers pass in and out as if the wall were air.  And when she looked up, the dome looked like a clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds.  The afternoon sun was hidden beyond the buildings, but a pale sliver of moon showed overhead.

“How long is the day out there?”

Slade’s sudden question snapped Keng out of her reverie.  “I don’t remember exactly.  Less than eighteen hours.”

Slade nodded and said, “Let’s go.”  She walked directly into and through the blue wall and vanished from sight.

Despite having watched so many people and vehicles pass through for years, Keng was nervous, as if touching the anaglass might shock her.  She groped out with one hand and was surprised when she felt nothing at all upon passing it through the wall.  Then she shrieked as a strong hand grasped her wrist and yanked her through.

Keng gasped.  Everything looked wrong.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cover Reveal/New Book Coming in August

I am planning on releasing a collection of four short stories in August. It contains two shorts based on my fantasy novel The Shard, one short that bridges the gap between The Immortality Game and The Shard, and a Viking short story that was included in The Dragon Chronicles. So far I plan on only including it on Amazon for .99 as part of their Kindle Unlimited program, though later I might expand it to other sites. My hope is to let new readers experience some of my writing, and hopefully they might then check out my novels.

Since this is a cheaper book, I used a pre-made cover, though I still like how it came out.

I have a favor to ask anyone who is interested. This is a short book and wouldn't take long to read. I'd like to get as many reviews as possible around the launch date in August. I expect honest reviews, so no pressure to rate it highly if you don't feel it deserves it. I'm willing to give a free Kindle copy to any of my friends who are willing to write an honest review (it doesn't have to be long) for Amazon/Goodreads near the launch date in mid-August. If interested, please email me at knight_tour at hotmail dot com.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Alphabet of SFF

Mark Lawrence did an intriguing blog post where he posted photos depicting from A to Z his favorite books by authors whose last names began with each particular letter. It got me thinking about my book shelves and in the end I just had to try it myself!

It ended up being somewhat difficult because there are so many books still to be read, so I decided not to list any of those, which left me with some letters unused. It also turned out that in many cases a single letter, like 'M' had multiple of my favorite authors.

Here you see me cheating right off with Robert Asprin listed first when he was the editor of the Thieves' World series, which was written by a bunch of terrific writers. But I just LOVE the Thieves' World series and think it's a shame that more people don't seem to remember it. I could have listed Joe Abercrombie there. Then comes Terry Brooks. I know most people sneer at The Sword of Shannara, but I loved it. Louis Bujold gets a secondary nod for 'B'. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't include my own writing under 'C', but I stuck Glen Cook in there as well to make it legit and because I love his work. Who can beat Philip K Dick for 'D'? Steven Erikson wins the 'E' category. I didn't have much under 'F', so I went with Alan Dean Foster.

'G' goes to William Gibson. No one can touch Robert E Howard, though Joe Haldeman deserves a mention. I didn't have any I or J that I had read, and Stephen King just doesn't fall under SFF for me, so I move to 'L' with Le Guin and Leiber. I know, it seems wrong to leave out Lawrence when he started this idea and I do like his work, but honestly, who can touch Le Guin? Or Leiber? I didn't even get to include Scott Lynch! The M's were trouble, so I put George Martin, of course, but I decided to throw in McKiernan and Morgan as well. Then Larry Niven for 'N'.

Pohl for 'P'. 'R' was hard since I just love Rothfuss's work, but I didn't want to leave out Chasm City by Reynolds, which is awesome. Scalzi slips in to 'S', though I was sorely tempted to include Dan Simmons. 'T' is flat out owned by Tolkien, naturally. 'V' goes to Vinge, who is amazing. I could have gone with Tad Williams for 'W', but I decided to choose Westerfeld, since The Risen Empire is great and so few people seem to have read this series.

Well, that's it! I have plenty of other books I love that didn't make it here since I didn't want to duplicate too  many in each category. For example, Ender's Game by Card feels like it should have made it. What about you? You up to the challenge?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Acting in Swedish Comedy

Some time ago I wrote about my various movie acting experiences on this blog, and today I was thinking about my favorite one, a Swedish comedy called The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Yes, a very long title, but it comes from a hit book and the movie is the highest-grossing film from Sweden and quite good. It has been driving me mad that it hasn't yet been released on DVD in America.
Last time I posted about it, I posted this picture taken by the Swedish star Robert Gustaffson (He is the one on the right). We had done several takes of this scene and Robert suddenly told us all to look over, and he snapped this 'selfie'. I realized I had never posted any shots from the scene, so just now I paused the scene a few times and did screen shots so you can see what the scene itself turned out like in the movie. For the actual scene, you'll need to look up the film. It is out on DVD in Europe, but in the U.S. we'll just have to wait.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Interview With Author Michael Patrick Hicks

I'm very proud to get to interview author Michael Patrick Hicks today. He first came to my attention when I learned he was a quarter-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Having tried that contest a couple of times myself, I was well aware of how difficult it is to get that far, so I knew he had to be a very good writer. Luckily for me his novel, Convergence, was also just the type of sci-fi that I enjoy. For those who haven't yet read it, I recommend it, and there couldn't be a better time than this week: Convergence will be free all week long! And if that isn't good enough news, the brand-new sequel, Emergence, that I haven't even read yet myself is just coming out and will be .99 cents all week as well! That won't last, so do yourself a favor and pick up two great high-octane books for one tiny price.

Your first book, Convergence, was an action-packed thrill ride. Will the second be the same or will there be a change of pace?
I think Emergence is even more action-packed. I always kind of saw Convergence as a sort of cyberpunk-noir, while Emergence is a straight-up sci-fi thriller, almost a summer action-movie blockbuster. If readers thought Convergence was a thrill ride, then they should be quite happy with the sequel.
In Convergence we learned that China has somehow invaded and now holds part of America, but we don’t learn a lot about why and how that came to be. Do you delve into this in more detail, either in Emergence or in a later sequel?
I do not, but there may be room for exploring these things in a future sequel, or maybe even a prequel sometime down the road. While there is a brief return to a Los Angeles under PRC occupation, there’s more of a road-trip vibe to Emergence and we get to see what’s happened to some of the other Pacific regions, like Washington, with a detour further inland to Nevada. There’s also a fun trip to the seasteading community that was briefly teased in the prior book. Readers will see more of a future America “as is” in that timeline, without a lot of background or infodump.
Tell us more about Emergence (without spoilers of course!). 
Emergence really grows out of the end-game from Convergence. Readers of Convergence will recall that some awful things happened to Mesa, the daughter of our central character in book 1. Mesa is still recovering from all that, and she’s really the focal point of this new novel. She’s got some secrets stuck in her head that she’s slowly becoming aware of, and she’s on the run for her life. There’s corporate mercenaries chasing her, she’s in serious danger, and so are her friends and her father. She’s really boxed into a corner and fighting for survival against some heinous characters in order to protect this secret that, if it got loose, could really change the world.
Will you only write sci-fi or do you plan to write in other genres as well?
I’m itching to write some more horror! I released a short horror story last Halloween called Consumption that readers seem have been enjoying. My current project is a title for the Apocalypse Weird series, and that’s going to be a nice blend of science fiction and horror, and I’m really pleased with the angle I get to tackle in my little corner of the ever-growing AW bookverse. I’ve got a small sci-fi/western/horror story that’ll be in an anthology due out in the fall. After that, we’ll see.
What were your major influences?
From the writing end of things, Stephen King was definitely a big influence on me, along with other authors like Tom Clancy and Richard K. Morgan. I think each of those authors have really helped to define my own writing style and my approach to telling stories.
The news, too, is a constant source of influence. Because my two novels have a strong technological backbone to them, I did a lot of research in order to make things plausible. A lot of the tech stuff is actually based, in part, on current research that DARPA is doing to aid wounded soldiers suffering from brain damage.
How has your publishing experience been so far?
So far it’s been good, and I certainly hope that continues! I’ve heard from several readers who enjoyed Convergence quite a bit, and that’s always very rewarding and fulfilling. I hope I don’t let them down with my future releases! I’ve also met a number of terrific writers, and was able to collaborate with them on a recent anthology, with another coming out soon. I’ve certainly had a terrific time of it, and a few very nice doors have been opened for me because of my work. I’m enormously grateful for that.
Did you always want to write, or was there a catalyst that made you suddenly decide to go for it?
I have, yeah. It was always the one big dream I had in life, and I wanted to get my first book out there by the time I was 35. I beat my goal by one year! I had been planning on pursuing a traditional path, but that’s such a massive leviathan to try and wrangle.
After Convergence placed as a quarter-finalist in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and my book’s early readers supported it in that contest, and Publisher’s Weekly had a lot of positive things to say about it, I decided to just go for it and self-publish.
Based on that contest and the feedback I was getting, it definitely looked like there was a market for my book and letting it sit in a drawer for, what would likely be, years on end trying to find an agent and a publisher lacked a certain luster. I knew that I could publish it myself and work with some terrific professionals to make it into the book I wanted it to be. I think it was a smart decision, and I’ve had zero regrets about jumping into the indie pool feet-first.
Do you have a goal with publishing?
My goal, first and foremost, is to write books that readers enjoy. A more long-term goal is to be able to write full-time, but I think I’m a ways off from that. But, if Mr. Speilberg wants to make me an offer on a movie deal I’d be hard pressed to say no!
Do you have a particular target audience for your books? What books are out there whose readership might love yours?

Sci-Fi fans are the first target audience that leap to mind, of course, but also readers who like mysteries and thrillers. Both Convergence and Emergence straddle a number of different genres, and I think they’re open to just about any reader. If you’re a reader but a bit afraid of the sci-fi label, don’t be! The titles are Earth-based, human-focused techno thrillers, so if you like 24 or Michael Connelly or James Rollins, I think you could certainly enjoy my books and find a lot of things here that are familiar, but just a few years ahead of us technology-wise.

Here are links to both books:

To learn more or to become a fan of Michael Patrick Hicks:
His Goodreads Author Page
Michael's Website

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Dragon Chronicles

Tomorrow is the official release date of the fantastic anthology The Dragon Chronicles, which features a short story (or a novelette according to Nebula guidelines!) of mine called Dragon Play. This anthology is part of an ongoing series of speculative fiction anthologies called The Chronicles, which features such compilations as The AI Chronicles, The Alien Chronicles, and The Robot Chronicles. There are more forthcoming, including one called The Immortality Chronicles that I am kicking myself that I didn't get to be a part of, considering that my books are all about immortality.
Picture from Samuel Peralta
There are some amazing names associated with The Chronicles, such as Hugh Howey, with more famous authors slated to be part of future releases. So that makes me especially proud to get to be a part of this. The book is available for Kindle and in paperback.

For any who are interested, there is a Facebook release party scheduled which will have lots of giveaways.

Goodreads reviews have already mentioned my story a couple of times, making me quite happy:

"Ted Cross does a beautiful a job with his tale of a treasure hunt gone horribly awry for a group of young Vikings trespassing upon a dragon’s lair. The youthful characters of Dragon Play are well done, and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of The Goonies vibe in their doomed sojourn."

"Dragon Play - Ted Cross 
— ok, this is another of my favorites in the group. Not only because the characters feel real, and their relationship believable, but the adventure in the cave is heart-stopping, and glues your lungs together when the characters hold their own breath. You are pulled into these characters, not a yanking of terror sort of way, but you find yourself inhabiting them as naturally as if you are there in the cave with them. This is masterfully written, and the feel and tone of Iceland or Scandinavia or wherever its set is so integral it becomes the backbone of the tale. Not like some stories that make you feel the location is just a choice from a spun wheel of possibilities, no, this feels rooted and born from the land where it is written. Beautiful."

Hopefully being a part of this will lead some new readers to my books!