A Few Quick Questions With…Maggie Lynch

Earlier, I gave some brief thoughts about Maggie Lynch’s Gravity, a fun Space Opera/SF adventure, and now I get to ask the author a few questions. I start off talking about The Obsidian Rim series as a whole before we narrow in on Gravity and Lynch herself. There are some great answers here, and I’m blown away that she’d spend so much time on them. Hope you enjoy!

How did The Obsidian Rim project come about? Who picked who was taking part?
When I was planning my 2019 and 2020 writing schedule I decided I wanted to write more SF, but with a romantic subplot. My fiction writing career started with SF and I published short stories in magazines and anthologies back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It was always my first love in writing. But I’ve been writing romance novels for the past decade and love the genre, and have a following. So, I wanted a way to combine the two genres with a leaning toward real science fiction.

I looked at what was labeled Science Fiction Romance and really didn’t care for the trend of shifters and mating rituals, alien lovers or world saviors, and very hot males where sex often came before relationship building. I wanted a series that was really based in a well-conceived science fiction world—preferably space opera for some fun and adventure. But I had no following in that genre. I did some research of the market and found, what I believe, was a missing niche. That is SF for smart women who liked the science but also wanted the relationships. That fit what I love to write. Character-driven stories, based in science but with definite romantic relationships that make a difference in the story. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone and get a following quick enough to make it work.

So I approached my friend, Jessa Slade writing as Elsa Jade, who’s story telling ability I love. Even when she’s writing shifters, paranormal, or alien lovers she is still writing smart fiction. She creates strong women characters who are as much in control of the situation as the men in the romances. She has been part of a number of multiple author group projects, and enjoyed the experience. So I asked if she would be interested in us co-coordinating this one. Fortunately, she agreed.

We both created the basis of the Obsidian Rim world. What you read on the Obsidian Rim website regarding the World background is what Jessa and I came up with. I’m the more sciency of the two of us, so things like metric measurements, wormhole time dilation etc. is from my research. The concept of Quantum Energy Drives and Bombs is Jessa’s idea and how that actually plays out in the science is both of us. The details of things like language, weaponry, etc. were contributed by individual authors as they built their own stories and is attributed.

Once we had the background, rules of the world, and contract details we began recruiting writers we knew personally who we believed could write these kinds of stories (based on what they’ve written in the past) and who we knew to be reliable. Because we have an aggressive release schedule with a new book every two weeks, we needed people who could get their books finished and through an editor on time. As we began recruiting in February, several of the people we approached were unable to join us because their annual release schedule was already full. But we are happy with the writers we have and if everything goes well this year, will open up to additional writers in 2020.

Just judging by Gravity, there was a lot of worldbuilding involved in The Obsidian Rim—how much of that was group effort, how much was you?
As I indicated above, the basis of the Obsidian Rim world was created by Elsa Jade and me. However, each author has the ability to go beyond those basics and create whatever he/she needs to make her story work. The only rules are: there are no aliens in this world; and because of the magnetic barrier at the rim no one can go beyond the galaxy rim. Everything else about the individual planets, planetoids, asteroids or space stations are up to each author as are the characters, creatures, and other developments. We do talk to each other in a closed Facebook Group just to keep everyone informed. And we do try to intersect with each other’s books in some way in order to keep readers interested in reading beyond one particular author they may already know.

So, in Gravity, the concept of cryoborns is mine and their special gift for navigation is a central piece of my trilogy in the Obsidian Rim world. The characters, their background stories, and the type of travel and planets visited are all mine. The book begins on Ydro-Down which is a mining planet that Elsa Jade created for her trilogy in the world. She gave me the outline of what was there in her mind and the basic corporate structure, and we agreed on an intersection with one particular character who would be the hero in her first book. I took it from there. When I finished the section that took place on Ydro-Down, I sent it to her for review in case I took too many liberties with her world or portrayed the intersection character inaccurately. We were both writing our drafts at the same time, so we were both figuring things out as we wrote. Fortunately, there were only a couple of easy changes to make it mesh.

Tell me a little about the participants in the project and their corners of the universe.
As I haven’t read all the books that have been published I don’t know a lot of details. I only know the blurbs that we have on the website for each book, and what the authors have shared as they try to use and pickup tidbits from each other. What I can say is that, each author has built their own worlds within the Galaxy and has committed to intersecting with at least one other author’s book. What I can tell you is that we have planets with toxic plants; a variety of criminal elements from pirates to royalty; some cool companion robots like dogs; and in one case cats with special powers to get humans to do what they need. Actually, that describes my own cats right now. ☺

We have recently put up a revised map of approximately where the different worlds are in the galaxy that have been a part of a book so far. As people share what living environments they’ve created, we try to place them in the Rim in our best guess as to how it works with the rest of the bookso and the intersection of stories. It is definitely NOT exact or even close, as the further out you go along the spiral arms the less we know right now which means less to extrapolate for the future. Also, distances even within one sector of the galaxy are still tens of thousands of light years apart.

I would love to share a little bit about each author in the 2019 round of novels.

I’ve already talked quite a bit about Elsa Jade., my co-conspirator in this undertaking. In addition to writing great stories, she is also a developmental editor and has won two Rita awards for her editing on author’s books. Jessa Slade/Elsa Jade now has 50 books published, with the more majority in SFF Romance and continues to write amazing character-driven stories that keep readers coming back. Her Obsidian Rim trilogy features the primary mining planetoid for qubition—the ore that powers ships to get through wormholes and also powered Q-bombs that destroyed most of the galaxy.

Jane Killick lives in the U.K. She works for the BBC as her day job and her love of SF started with movies and UK series television. Her most popular book, Stasis Leaked Complete, is based on interviews with the cast and crew of the successful space comedy, Red Dwarf.  Another popular nonfiction work is her five book series going behind the scenes of Babylon 5. Her most recent SFF fiction series is The Perceivers, A YA telepathy thriller series of four books. Her Obsidian Rim trilogy features freelancersplying their trades throughout the Rim.  It’s a great backdrop for exploring both the good and corrupt parts of commerce in the future.

Shree Aier is our only freshman writer. Her Obsidian Rim book, Coexistence, is her first published novel. I like Shree because she is even nerdier than me. Until recently, Shree has been pursing academic interests in science. She has two undergraduate degrees in business, psychology and biochemistry, and a Masters in materials science & engineering. She’s worked on research projects in psychology, biochemistry as well as cancer therapeutics using nanotechnology. Her trilogy features the Earth Conservatory, a place where original stocks of plants, seeds, and animals that came on generational ships are stored and monitored—not always with the best interest of humanity.

Shona Husk is a well-published writer, with 45 books published across several romance genres. The majority feature fantasy and science fiction worlds. She lives in western Australia and brings a definite knowledge of writing with multiple author series. Her Obsidian Rim trilogy, Dead Suns, features a royal family with a criminal element and mercenaries that sometimes work with them and at other times against them. Lots of page-turning adventure and great character-building within the Rim world. Her stories feature insights into social hierarchy, politics, and power and their impact on a personal level.

Jody Wallace is our humorous author, both in person and in her writing. Like any good comedian, she finds humor in the strangest situations. This is proven by her choice of planet for her trilogy—Trash Planet. Yes, it is literally a planet devoted to collecting and recycling all the trash from the Rim. With over 30 books published she has a great track record for delivering humor with good stories. Other writers may know her in her alter ego as the Grammar Wench, and/or the “cat lady” who has run a “meankitty” blog since 1999. Like Jessa Slade, Jody is also a freelance editor.

Sela Carsen is the author I’ve personally known the longest. We first met in an author critique group about 15 years ago. We were both starting on our novel writing journey in romance at that time and created a group of seven authors. Sela is particularly skilled at writing shorter works—short stories and novellas. Something I admire, as to me a short story is at least 8K words. The majority of her titles are in fantasy, a large number in the Nocturne Falls world created by Kristin Painter. Sela loves legends and fairy tales, so you are likely to see some of that seeping into her SF books as well. She agreed to tackle this slightly longer form for the Obsidian Rim novels and we are glad she’s joined us.

CJ Cade is another writer with a large backlist. With over 35 novels to date. Her SF Romances are written as CJ Cade, whereas her contemporaries and paranormals are written as Cathryn Cade. Right now the two pen names are running neck and neck for number of titles. Cathryn is also an author with a history of working in multiple author series, so she brings that experience of collaboration to the table. Her Obsidian Rim trilogy features a world where the plants are actually toxic to most humans, but some have adapted. An interesting dilemma indeed.

Let’s focus on Gravity now—what came first—characters or the story?
All of my SF works, whether novel length or short stories, begin with an idea. Then I try to find a character that can embody that idea and personalize it. Also, I’m one of those writers who tends to explore the same themes in every book—no matter the genre—that is how we make decisions and through that process learn to be our best selves (or not in the case of villains).

For me, I began this trilogy with the idea of how the Rim was populated or how humans were able to go tens of thousands of light years away from earth. I knew there needed to be generational ships and that likely meant most of the colonists would be in cryosleep. But what happens to people in cryo during the Oblivion War when large quantum waves wash over them? Something had to change, and that is where the special navigational abilities arise.

For me characters, and particularly with a romantic element, need to have opposing needs. I had a good idea of Kash. Though he starts the book enslaved, he has a memory of a past that was peaceful and loving before being put in cryo and that shapes his view of what is possible. That is juxtaposed by Lehanna who was raised a criminal, a pirate, and has no basis for believing anything good about the world unless she gets it or take sit herself. But these two are thrown together with these different world views and need to work it out. How do humans do that? And what pulls one to the other, even when the worldview is so opposite? I find that ultimately interesting and the basis for problem solving all the scrapes they get in. Both of their skills are needed and both of their worldviews are needed, because neither one has the entire truth.

Keeping spoiler-free, can you talk about Adira and Layla—both seemed inspired to me, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all the characters, but there’s something about these two and the role they played that really got to me.
I’m so happy you liked them. It’s funny, to me, how secondary characters take on a life of their own. I am what I fondly call a “plantser.” That means my native way of writing is as a “pantser” starting and writing into the mist (or the dark) and solving problems as they come along. However, the more books I’ve done and the faster I’ve learned to write, I’ve learned that plotting at least a little makes it easier to get to the end by deadline. ☺

But characters are the best part of “pantsing” for me, because they come from my heart and they are there to create questions or other views in the protagonist(s) life. It is not at all unusual that these secondary characters eventually get a story of their own.

Adira was created out of a need to steal something from the evil slave overlord on Ydro-Down. Because he was truly evil, I had to develop a character who somehow survived him no matter what trauma she felt, and yet kept her humanity because she also remembers (like Kash) a time in her life when things were beautiful and peaceful. Adira also serves as a good mirror to Lehana—who also comes from trauma but has shut down her ability to feel or sublimated it with anger and aggression.

Layla is actually a personification of my cat, Layla. ☺ She was so named because the name, from the Arabic, means “dark beauty” or one born at night. My cat, Layla, is primarily black with streaks of golden brown around the face. She is very calm, but also astute and can lay in wait for an attack for hours if needed. Layla in my book therefore is also dark skinned, calm, but very astute. I made her unusually tall to emphasize that juxtaposition between largeness and peace. Also, compared to Adira who is small, like Lehanna, it seems like another subtle way to show how diversity still brings commonality.

I don’t know yet, how Adira and Layla are going to feature in the next two books or if they will eventually get stories—or series—of their own. For now, in many ways, they are the centering force for extremes that occur with my protagonists.

Can you talk a little about what’s next for your storyline?
Magnetism is the next book in the Cryoborn Gifts trilogy. It will be released in early September. It is going through first round edits now and I hope to have actual ARCs available for reviewers in mid-August. It will take our protagonists to another level in their relationship and we get to know the children in this next book. The crux of the entire trilogy is how much is one willing to change in order to save themselves, their family, or an entire universe?

I think for many people, that is an ongoing question in our lives. How much should I, can I, do to help make things better. From stories of jews being protected in WWII at the risk of the protectors lives, to those who dedicate their life to causes that are beyond challenging and take you away from everything you know—those who fight for climate justice, homelessness, science, the arts—whatever the cause it can become all consuming and is that good?

These heroic stories are always ones that interest me. What kind of people make those choices and what price do they pay? At the end, I and the reader are left to answer the question if the price was worth it. Life is not black and white, and I like exploring the complexity of those questions.

Will Lehanna and Kash choose to change so much that they can never go back to “normal” again? Or will only one choose? Or will they find a way out of total commitment? All answers are possible and all choices are ones that help.

Tell us about your road to publication—was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
I was a creative child growing up. I wrote poetry, music, and stories from the moment I could conceive them. In high school I was playing a violin in the orchestra, writing my own kind of folk music, a regular member in drama club and doing theater. And occasionally wrote stories or scripts. However, I also grew up as the oldest of nine children and not a lot of money for things beyond food.

I didn’t plan to go to college because I couldn’t afford to go. However, my father guilted me into using my savings from working as a waitress for three years to go to one year of college instead of moving out. He was a smart man and I loved the challenge of learning. I never considered pursuing a creative path because I was paying for it all myself and I knew it would never pay me enough to live on my own. My career and eventually academia was a great way to satisfy my love of life-long learning and get paid for it.

My need for creative outlet was satisfied by writing short stories on the side—occasionally getting them published in magazines and anthologies. I have about 60 out of more than 100 I wrote that were published. I participated in community theater until into my early 40’s and occasionally got a small part in a B movie being filmed near where I lived. One week of filming at base SAG rates was more income than I got paid in a month of working as a therapist at a university. But those films only came around once every couple of years.

Somewhere around age 45 I realized that the best way for me to pursue a creative life was to be a novelist. I’d had nonfiction work published in books, along with a variety of articles—from academic to every day articles in local magazines or tourist features. Being ever the planner, I decided if I started my novel career by the time I was 50, and could write three books a year while working full time. I would have built up 30 books by my retirement and have a following.

It didn’t work exactly how I planned, but that’s another story. I retired early, at 56, and began writing full time then. I’m up to about 20 books but picking up steam. I don’t know that I’ll ever achieve the income I had in academia or consulting. But I make enough to keep food on the table and a roof over our head and I love what I do.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
I’m going to stretch your timeline a bit, because the truth is I haven’t had much time to watch movies or read books beyond what is required for my writing. So, my list is limited. I can say that in the last decade the movie that affected me the most was Avatar. In some ways it mirrored the fantasy series I was writing at the time—The Forest People—in that it explored a group of beings that revered the natural ways of nature in both a spiritual and a practical way. There is a lot I disliked about that movie—particularly how the ending was done—but I liked the themes.

In terms of a book, in 2008, a good friend told me about Suzette Haden Elgin’s trilogy. She is a linguist who created an entire language, Laadan, specifically for women in her fictional series. She wrote a series of books about a future time when the 19th amendment was repealed. Women had been stripped of their civil rights. Yet, it is the women who have the skills to communicate with alien races. And those skills create the language Laadan which gives them power and

Though the trilogy was published 1984-1987 I’d never heard of it. It was the first time I’d read a book that might be described as feminist. She played with form and function and made them a part of the story. I personally liked the story as a whole, and liked that the women never gave up communicating with each other and with trying new ways to communicate with aliens. It was a “smart” book for smart readers and I appreciated that. It opened my mind to new levels of writing I hadn’t considered.

Thanks for your time—and thanks for Gravity, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.
Thank you, for taking the time to read my book! I love learning what people see or don’t see in a finished book. Certainly, as the writer, I put things in that speak to me and the themes I am exploring and hope that some of those speak to the reader. However, I’m always excited to hear what other things become important to the readers.

Ultimately, once a book is in a reader’s hands, the story becomes their story and they may see things I never thought/knew were there. That is the beauty of creation and sharing it with others. If I kept it to myself, I’d never learn more about how we as humans can make connections that are common even within such diversity of thought and experience.

Gravity by Maggie Lynch: A Promising Start to a Space Opera Saga

I’d like to take a beat to apologize to Maggie Lynch, I’d intended to get this posted a couple of weeks ago, but other priorities/commitments/energy levels kept intervening.


by Maggie Lynch
Series: The Obsidian Rim, #1Kindle Edition, 235 pg.
Windtree Press, 2019

Read: July 9 – 11, 2019

Lehana is a smuggler known throughout the Outer Rim as one who’ll take just about any job if the price is right. That’s actually about all that anyone knows about her, really. Thanks to a small computer problem, Lehana crashes onto a mining planet, seriously impeding their production for a couple of days. To appease the owners of the mines, as well as to get a little assistance, she agrees to one of those jobs she has turned down before.

Because of a bad experience she had with the man who runs the mine, Lehana decides to take one of his slaves with her as she leaves. What she doesn’t know is that she helped other slaves—a man and his two cryogenically frozen children—leave the planet. She’d have been well within her rights to turn them over, but that didn’t sit right with her. She’s no supporter of slavery, but she’s not a revolutionary either and would prefer to just do her own thing without getting embroiled in anything. Still, she can’t hand over kids.

Taking that many slaves is enough to get her current clients to send people after her, and the rest of the book revolves around the questions: can she successfully deliver her cargo and make a profit off of it, before those coming to collect the brand new price on her head show up to collect? Can she—does she want to—save the lives of the stowaways? Will she work again after this stunt?

I really appreciated the way that Lynch set up these characters and introduced us to this world. It feels familiar to people who’ve read a smattering of Space Operas before, but it’s not a clone of any that I know of. A mix of the routine and the new makes for an easy entry into the world for the reader. This applies for the way the characters were introduced to each other and became a team, as well as the world they exist in.

Lehana’s a solid character to build a series on, and the other characters that were prominent were pretty strong, too. I don’t feel comfortable getting into the characters as much as usual, I think you should get to know them in the novel rather than me getting into a discussion too deep, I’m just afraid I’d spoil too much. On the whole, I liked the characters—there were a couple of people on Lehana’s crew that were sidelined most of the time, but the others really clicked well for me. I’d have preferred more time with just about all of them over the stuff that I’ll talk about in the next paragraph. Now, the characters that I found the most interesting (at least one of them) were not the characters that Lynch found the most use for. I grant you that I may be more curious about them than I am others because Lynch didn’t focus on them as much, so there are more questions about them.

My biggest gripe would have to be about the way that Lehana and Kash interacted with the ship to help the navigation—it just didn’t make sense. I mean, I got it—both the way it was described and the way that Lynch used it to spur some character development in Lehana. But it’s not something I could really buy/accept. I don’t think this is a reflection on Lynch’s writing, it’s the concept behind it. It’s hard to talk about briefly and without ruining the story for anyone, but I just didn’t like it. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the prominence it took in the storytelling. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I found it annoying and boring at the same time. On a related note, I think the amount and detail of sexual references could’ve been toned down, but I skew prudish, I know.

I had a good time reading this—it was fast, it was fun, set in an intriguing world with well-constructed and entertaining characters. I think I’m curious enough about what’s going on to come back for more—and maybe to check out some other works in this universe, just to see how they’re different/similar. If you’re in the mood for a nice space opera, this could just be the thing for you.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for this post, but I read it because I wanted to and the opinions expressed are my own and not influenced by her.


3 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Degrading Orbits by Bradley Horner: What comes next for the Star-Crossed Axel and Helen

Degrading OrbitsDegrading Orbits

by Bradley Horner
Series: Darkside Earther, #2

Kindle Edition, 225 pg.
Read: November 12 – 13, 2018

So, in each of the three books by Horner that I’ve read, he throws his readers deep into a technologically-enhanced future that requires a very specialized vocabulary. The books are chock full of what I’ll be calling SF hooptedoodle, which is cool — it can be intimidating at times, it can be overwhelming at times, but it suits his fiction well. Now, in Darkside Earther (this book’s predecessor), Horner told a sweet teen love story surrounded by SF hooptedoodle. Degrading Orbits, on the other hand, frequently feels like a swamp of SF hooptedoodle with a little bit of a human story here and there.

This is all about the fallout from the climatic events from Darkside Earther, how Axel’s parents are trying to save him, the Ring, and their careers (not necessarily in that order). They do this by putting Axel under the care of a security team to protect, heal and train him into being what his parents need him to be.

The biggest part of this protection and training takes the form of cutting off all communication with Helen and the rest of his friends and former life. Axel obviously doesn’t want this, but is unable to do anything else.

Thankfully, Helen, his friends and the large gaming community they’re part of are busy trying to hack into his brain — among other things. We don’t get to see most of what they’re up to, but we do get to hear summaries of it in the brief moments that Axel and Helen get to spend communicating. And it sounds very promising.

My biggest problem with this book is that Helen and Axel have practically zero agency — what they do has almost no impact at all on the events of this novel. And the events of the novel aren’t affected all that much (with one exception) by anything Axel does. Now, it’s pretty clear that what they did do in this novel will have huge impact on what’s to come. But here it was less useful than using a piece of crabgrass to pick a deadbolt. I know that’s how things have to go sometimes, but it’s more than frustrating in a novel.

I liked these characters going in and was looking forward to seeing how they recovered from the previous book. So I was a little disappointed in this one, but I do have every confidence that this was necessary to set up a great finale. I’m looking forward to being proven right. In the meantime, I had enough fun watching Axel get put through his paces and Helen trying to save the day. I even enjoyed trying to suss out what was going on with the SF hooptedoodle.

In the end, while this didn’t work for me as much as I wanted it to, I still enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing how Horner wraps up this trilogy — I’m sure that this book set up things for that conclusion in such a way that the things that I wasn’t crazy about in Degrading Orbits won’t be as prominent in it. It’s a good book, even with my quibbles — but it could’ve been a little better.


3 Stars