This is my stop during the blog tour for Running Out of Space by S.J. Higbee. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 11 till 31 October. You can check see the tour schedule here.
For a limited time Running Out of Space will be only $0.99 on Amazon
Elizabeth Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…
I can’t recall whose idea it was. Just that me and my shipmates were sick of wading through yet another unjust punishment detail. So we decide to take ourselves off on a short jaunt to the lower reaches of Space Station Hawking to prove that fertile English girls can also deal with danger.
The consequences of that single expedition change the lives of all four of us, as well as that of the stranger who steps in to save us down in lawless Basement Level. Now I have more excitement and danger than I can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.
You can find Running Out of Space on Goodreads
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You can buy Running Out of Space for only $0.99 on Amazon!
It’s all about the words…
Thank you so much O.D. for inviting me to write an article to mark the release of my space opera adventure Running Out of Space. I’m a real anorak about words – I love them. I’m still awestruck at the thought that a species designed to survive as hunter/gatherers have managed to construct a series of squiggles on a page that translate into sounds. These sound squiggles are threaded into lines that make up words… phrases… sentences… paragraphs… stories… articles… books. These black squiggles on white pages spark rainbows of colour in our imagination. They can make us laugh and cry. They can engender peace or stir us up to go to war.
Small wonder that any despotic regime is reluctant to let their population have free access to the written word. For the moment someone picks up a page and begins to read, there is no one mediating between the reader and those words. Each one of us is left to decide whether those words in that particular arrangement bring a story to life or leave us unmoved. You only have to have a quick browse on Goodreads to realise that for every handful of folks squeeing over the latest best-seller, there will be at least one reader left complete bewildered at what all the fuss is about.
The other things that fascinates me about words is they have a sell-by date. They are not permanent. Anyone who has struggled through a page of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, written somewhere between 1387 and 1400, will know the written English then was very different to the English we speak and write today. A few of the words will make it through, although confusingly, some of those that look familiar mean something quite different. This is largely to do with the changes in our way of life. While the basic process of being born, growing up, raising children and growing old is unchanged, many of the everyday activities surrounding those events have changed. Most of us don’t ride or walk long distances to work. The jobs we do require different tools and skill-sets with very few exceptions. So therefore, they need new words and those that no longer reflect our daily experiences fall out of use – though I shall forever be sad that the word tissock, meaning tickly cough, became obsolete.
So when I wrote Running Out of Space, which starts in 2357 and finishes the following year, I thought about some the phrases and words they might be need that we don’t use now. I considered that space may well figure in their slang a lot, just as our nautical past has spawned a handful of phrases that have become commonplace, such as three sheets to the wind, by and large, hand over fist and know the ropes – just to name but a few. So I have my characters who live and work on a merchant spaceship talking about over an event horizon, star-crazed, madder than a space-spooked cat and flushed out the airlock. They talk about ‘dirtsiders’ and ‘mudfeet’ and refer to space stations as ‘tin cans’ and planets as ‘dirtballs’. They use ‘flooding’ as a curse word and moan about being ‘vac’d flat’ when they are tired. Whereas those who live on the agricultural planet, Ceres talk about ‘frog-gobbling idiots’ and look on the merchanters as ‘space camels’.
So… if you had the option of bringing a phrase or word into the language, what would it be and why? Do let me know in the comments section – I’d love to hear from you.
Excerpt from Running Out of Space – Book 1 of Sunblinded
by S.J. Higbee
I opened my eyes to find myself lying on my back, staring at the sky – a shock. After nearly a year in a spacecraft, so much fresh air overstimmed my slagged senses. Apart from anything else, it stank. Of earth and greenness and rain. I sucked at the water trickling across my mouth because I was very thirsty, as well as soaking wet and cold. My teeth started to chatter.
Maybe it would be a zesting notion to get up. It took a while to struggle onto my knees and shakily scramble to my feet. Partly because everything hurt and partly because I couldn’t shake the idea I must be badly injured. I’d been in a shuttle crash, for Earth’s sake! But although my head was hammering hard enough to shiver my vision and I’d an impressive collection of cuts and purpling bruises, nothing seemed broken. I shaded my stinging eyes from the too-bright outdoor lighting, and tried to get my bearings.
The sodden landscape was cheerlessly grey, with rain falling sideways in swirling gusts that plastered torn overalls against my rapidly numbing body. I squinted sore eyes. That grey smudge. There… behind that stand of trees. That’s smoke.
I squelched across the gouge marks scarring the field, following the trail of shredded shuttle-stuff while my head thudded with vicious intensity. The tail section sheared off, here. The rest cleared the fence and finally ended up in the next field. I must’ve been thrown out.
It took a long light year to trudge through the vile gloop the Cerens like to call soil. I fell over. Twice. The second time, I nearly didn’t get up. The only thing that kept me going was the sure knowledge that if I stayed sitting in the gluey mess, I’d die of hypothermia. Or disgust. I didn’t survive a dregging shuttle crash just to end up as fertiliser for some food crop. Besides, what if Wynn finds me? I flinched at the thought of his beautiful blue eyes staring at my mucky corpse.
The going got easier once I reached the knee-high grass bordering the field as the tall plax-mesh fence offered significant shelter from the rain-laden wind. I headed for the track intersecting the fencing. A thick pall of smoke swirled through the opening long before I reached it. The chemical smell, overlaid with a cooked meat scent, made me cough like an apron-clad bloke downwind of the barbie. I used a shard of dura carbon to hack off the breast pocket on my overalls and cover my nose against the stinking smoke. But I could do nothing about the dread snaking in my belly.
If Wynn survived, why haven’t I seen him? No way would he wander off without searching for me. I stumbled to a halt, as icy certainty gripped me. That’s it, then. He’s dead. I buried my face in my hands, despairing. Until a new voice zipped through my head like a fireball.
Wynn could die out there, while you’re behaving like a baby. Haul it together, Lizzy!
Jessica, that you? It sounded like her, for sure. Whether it was or not, just hearing her bossy voice ringing around the inside of my skull was sufficient to help me haul it together. On trembling legs, I rounded the corner and took in the mess. Judging by the torn earth and burning remains, the shuttle must have cartwheeled half the length of the field before finally coming to a halt upside down. I shivered as I imagined the force needed to create such large gouges, while wading through the quagmire and peering into each gaping hole, already half-full of water. Looking around the rainy, smoke-grimed mudscape at the flaming remains of the shuttle, I wondered if there was a bleaker spot in the whole universe.
I spotted the first body, while stumbling through the wreckage. His head was tilted back at an impossible angle. His helmet had been torn off and his face was a red ruin. I shuddered. Hopefully, it was quick.
I moved onto the next hole, dropped to my knees, and prodded at the water with a length of casing. My stomach slid somewhere around my mud-caked thighs when I realised someone was down there.
Mark the spot, then move on. You can come back later, if you don’t find Wynn elsewhere.
Typical Jessica. Still bossy, even when dead. Nevertheless, I draped shredded insulation in the rough shape of an arrow, before moving towards the burning remains of the shuttle. It was now a question of numbers. I’d found two bodies, one unidentified. Aboard the shuttle, there’d been Helmethead, the pilot, Wynn, and the three guards sitting opposite. Six, apart from me.
The pilot was easy to find. His charred body was still strapped into the burnt-out remains of the cockpit, clearly beyond help. Another badly burned merc was hanging out of a ripped hole in the fuselage, but I couldn’t get close enough to see if he was still alive. Heat radiated from the blackened carcass of the shuttle. Further back, the fuel tanks were still burning.
Upwind of the thick, stinking smoke, the warmth was almost pleasant. I caught sight of someone was lying on open ground about ten yards in front of the shuttle, so mud-covered, I couldn’t tell whether he was wearing a uniform. Or alive.
Hurry up, it could be Wynn.
Yeah, I’m on it, Jessica. I half-ran, half-slithered towards the prone figure. But I slid to a stop a few feet away, as I realised the dregger was wearing a helmet. His arm twitched.
Mercury’s Dust, he’s alive. I couldn’t walk away. Kneeling beside him, I felt for his pulse. He’s warm to the touch… Which was when I recognised the numbers on the side of his helmet – I’d been staring at them when he’d hit me. It’s Helmethead! Wonder how he—
His hand snaked out and gripped my arm as he surged to his knees. “Hello, girlie. Must be my lucky day, after all.”
About the Author:
Born the same year as the Russians launched Sputnik, I confidently expected that by the time I reached adulthood, the human race would have a pioneer colony on the Moon and be heading off towards Mars. So I was at a loss to know what to do once I realised the Final Frontier wasn’t an option and rather lost my head – I tried a lot of jobs I didn’t like and married a totally unsuitable man.
Now I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’ll never leave Earth, I have a lovely time writing science fiction and fantasy novels while teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook College in Worthing. I’ve had a number of short stories, articles and poems published – the most recent being my story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ which appeared last year in Fox Spirit’s anthology Eve of War. I recently signed a publishing contract with Grimbold Publishing for my science fiction novel Netted, which is due to be released in 2019.
I live in Littlehampton on the English south coast with a wonderful husband and a ridiculous number of books. I can be found online chatting about books at my book review blog https://sjhigbee.wordpress.com/ and you’re very welcome to pop onto my website http://www.sjhigbee.com and my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sjhigbeeauthor/.