Athena Grayson ...Hacking the Great Narrative... Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:19:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Athena Grayson 32 32 128824109 The Star Empire: Jumpgate Travel Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:19:38 +0000

Jumpgates are a necessity for interplanetary travel in the worlds of the Jewel, but travelers must use them according to rules both man-made and established by the nature of the Jump system itself. Unscheduled jumps are fraught with peril and only fools make them in the most desperate of situations. For everyone else, here’s how they work.

Direct and Connecting Jumps

Not every gate connected to every other gate. A few Jumpgates served as “hubs,” while many more gates only connected to far fewer–or even only one–other orbits. Getting from a hub like Capitol to many different orbits is as simple as logging your flight plan, queueing up, and going through the gate to come out on the other side, almost at your destination. It’s a little less direct to get from a quieter orbit like Tenraye to the inner worlds–you can make more jumps and get there in less physical time, or take fewer jumps and cover more ground. Orbits with remote Jumpgates tend to see less interplanetary traffic, especially if their only connection is to another remote orbit.


The Jumpgates aren’t programmable, as the early settlers found out. They actually run on a fixed timetable, and they always run on time. Each Jumpgate connects to a single other Jumpgate for a set number of hours, before transitioning to connect to a different endpoint. As long as you’re through the Jumpgate in the time window, you’ll reach your intended destination point. If you miss a window, however, you’ll have to wait until the gate cycles back around to your destination. At a busy hub like the Capitol, you could wait an entire day or even longer, which is why it’s important to log your flight plans in advance.

Jumpgates Past and Future

One of the greatest challenges to the early settlers in the Nine Sisters was deciphering how the Jumpgates worked. No one remembers quite who figured out what, but the instructions left on the gates themselves were simple and able to be understood given humanity’s then-current understanding of astrophysics. Centuries of safe and consistent use of Jumpgates has made them ubiquitous in the worlds of the Jewel system. Academics are always curious about the inner workings, and no entrepreneur has not dreamed of cracking the secret to creating new Jumpgates, but thus far, the realization of that dream is still the realm of con artists and gullible marks. There is, however, a persistent rumor that there are new Jumpgates out there, waiting to be discovered by intrepid explorers, but the appropriate response is to wish them safe travels and wave goodbye at the spaceport while keeping your credits far from their expeditionary funds.

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The Star Empire: Jumpgates Wed, 26 Sep 2018 15:19:07 +0000

Getting Around

Every space writer has to make a critical choice in their writing life whether or not to allow FTL travel. We currently have no way to beat the speed of light, and books would get reeeeeallly booooring if they were NOT “road trip” books and it still took forever to get anywhere fun. So throughout fiction, writers have come up with some creative hacks to work around the whole space-time speed limit thing. In the Star Empire, we have Jumpgates.

Jumpgates exist in almost every orbit. These ancient artifacts from a long-gone alien culture operate by opening temporary stable wormholes into “Jumpspace” between two gates, allowing short-term travel through folded space that cuts the sublight travel speeds of months (or even years) down to minutes and hours.

Interplanetary Speed Limits

In the Star Empire, travel can still take days or even weeks between orbits. As with everything in a marginally capitalist society, adding credits to the engines can shave time off your trip. Still, there are some hard limits even credits can’t buy you out of. In space, there’s still traffic. In the worlds of the Jewel, Jumpgate Traffic Control keeps things in order by queueing up vessels for entry into Jumpspace. It takes coordination and planning to get to where you’re going. Ships are required to log their travel plans with JTC. Routes are ranked in order of total travel time, number of jumps, and time in Jumpsace. Depending on your ship’s characteristics, choosing a route to your destination may involve more jumps and less travel time, or it may involve fewer jumps and more time in Jumpspace. 



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The Star Empire: A Short Spin Around the Stars Sat, 08 Sep 2018 00:41:33 +0000

A Family Affair

Even though the star cluster is called “The Nine Sisters,” there are only two main star systems in the old Star Empire – the worlds of the Torch, and the worlds of the Jewel. Even though both systems have plenty of planets, moons, and other celestial bodies, their cultures diverged significantly.

The Jewel: A Sprawl

The worlds of the Jewel are plentiful, and filled with a sprawl of humans, near-humans, and aliens that successfully intermingled for thousands of years, enjoying open borders and well-established trade routes and a robust Jumpgate system. The Capitol acts as a major Jumpgate hub, while other planetary systems exchange fewer Jumpgate paths between them, but few planetary bodies are truly isolated. The Jewel enjoyed a robust, freewheeling expansion period that came to an abrupt end when a surprise attack from out of the system destroyed a swath of Capitol. The attackers disappeared as fast as they appeared, but an indelible mark was left on the psyche of the Jewel’s culture and the aftermath caused a cultural shock that changed the starmap forever.

The Torch: Trapped By Hubris

The empire in the Torch experienced a different fate. An early terraforming disaster caused a cloud of debris and radiation that polluted the orbit of the Jumpgate hub when it destroyed the planet in that orbit. The disaster stranded the human settlements on the only habitable planet at the time, whose Jumpgate only leads to an empty orbit at the edge of the system. The planets in the Landfall orbit (Landfall and its four moons, and two smaller planetesimals at LaGrange points L4 and L5) are the only habitable spaces the empire can reach. With overcrowding on the main planet and a toxic combination of class inequality and genetic drift affecting the population, the human empire of the Torch is running out of room to expand, with no pressure-release valve in sight.

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Indie Weekend: Summer of New Mon, 16 Jul 2018 16:21:24 +0000
I don’t talk about my books a lot. I don’t even talk about myself a lot. I’m one of those “extroverted introverts” – people who look like they love being around other people, but when the party’s over, we run into caves and don’t come out for half a year afterward and you realize you don’t know anything more about us than you did when you met us. But seriously, I can’t escape the fact that the only reason the six of you are here (or rather, five out of the six of you–Hi mom!) is for the damn books.

I’ll be honest with you–there is a metric fuckton of worldbuilding stuff that never makes it into the books. I love worldbuilding like other people love air conditioning in summer and heat in winter. But I’m nervous about sharing it because it feels incomplete to me–like parading around in my underwear. In fact, I think I’d rather parade around in my underwear. I’ve got alibis for all my physical imperfections. I don’t have excuses for why the planet of Landfall’s mid-levels are the best places to get food from carts and find funky cafes even if the atmosphere’s starting to become harder to breathe and easier to chew.

But it’s a good sign that if I’m uncomfortable doing it, or if I’m avoiding it, it’s probably a thing that I need to do.

Indie Weekend: Creative Bursts Mon, 11 Jun 2018 22:47:35 +0000

Once, I fancied myself one of those organized people who plans releases with plenty of time to complete them and meets their deadlines with consistency, grace, and aplomb.

Only once. I had a lie-down and disabused myself of that notion straightaway. My magic is messy. My creation is chaotic. I wish it weren’t so, but I sorta don’t because when I come out of it, I’m exhausted and drained but I’m proud of what I’ve bled out onto the page. And when I’m in the middle of it, I can achieve this meta-state where I feel like I really am digging deep to pull the best out of me. I don’t do drugs and I keep forgetting to day-drink, even though I’m in my 40’s and a mom so it’s sort of expected, but damned if I don’t get a contact-high off that creative buzz. If I time things just right, it expands and starts multiplying back on itself.

That sorta happened this past month. After a long time where I was depleted and dealing with a lot of external stuff, the pressure let up and the anvils stopped dropping. I found myself with a new venture on a new platform in a different sub-genre, a second book in the current series (which took longer than I thought because the series goes deeper than I thought), and more than one side-hustle for existing series and future projects that have had significant progress made upon them.

I still have anvils in the forecast–I don’t think I can escape that–but they’ve let up to a sprinkle, and in between the clangs, I’m getting hit with ideas. I’m grateful, but I’m also a bit wary. At some point, I have to choose the ones to work on and the ones to tuck away, and I hate picking favorites from all my little plot-bunnies. It makes the un-picked feel sad. Still, there are worse positions to be in.

Indie Weekend: May Flurries and Radish Coins Sat, 05 May 2018 19:45:44 +0000
I know, you’re thinking, “That better not be snow she’s talking about!” Haha, yeah, I know. There were snow flurries last weekend not too far away from me and that’s freaking ridiculous, but no, I’m not going to get Mother Nature any more punch-drunk than she already is. I’m talking about Flurries Of Activity. Specifically, book activity. Specifically, MY book activity.

Strange Magics

I just released a new book in a new series on a new platform. I know my sci-fi readers are waiting patiently for the next installment of Scions, too. The Strange Magics fantasy romance series kicks off with The Dread Lord’s Tithe as a Radish-exclusive. It’s something I set in motion several months ago while I was dodging falling pianos–I had the book ready to go for another project that fell through and the platform popped up on my radar. The pre-launch required minimal effort–just some formatting–and it was something I could do in the middle of mad housecleaning, getting rid of a lot of old junk I’d let pile up way too long, and fixing minor house repairs. Now, speaking of Strange Magics, I’m doing a little strange magic of my own to promote it. I’ve gone in with a handful of other Radish authors and we’re doing a Radish Coin Giveaway! We’re giving away 200 Radish Coins in our contest (coins are what you use in the Radish app to purchase episodes or chapters of your favorite stories and it’s how us authors keep our kitty overlords in catnip when you read). You can enter by clicking here on the graphic below. And a special shout-out to our friends at Romancing the Dragon for putting the giveaway together. Good luck!


But in the middle of all that–or I should say, as the bulk of the house work wrapped up–my fingers got itchy again and this time, I knew the path I had to take with Fallout (Scions book 2). Now, weird as it is for me to be working in a clean, uncluttered house (a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind, LOL), Fallout has fallen into place and I’m about ready to put up a pre-order link. It’s later than I’d hoped, but I’d rather be late than half-assed. I confess it’s a little scary–I had to rip this book apart once and put it back together, and for a person who writes continuing series, that can have…repercussions. But I’m glad I did the hard construction work, because it’s a better book for it.

Indie Weekend: Reading As Self-Care Fri, 13 Apr 2018 14:55:35 +0000

In the age of social media, sharing everything, and tagging yourself so that the whole world can see what you’re doing and where you are, reading, at least for me, is still an offline, solitary thing. Even though I’m charmed by things like the Kobo Reading App’s “achievement” badges (and yes, I get a little tickled every time I do something like “read 5 days in a row at lunchtime” or “binge-read three books” or something silly – hooray for human psych), reading is still something I do on my own, without needing to tell anyone about it.

Much of that comes from my upbringing, where I couldn’t disappear for days at a time to tear through a literary doorstop like Gone With The Wind all at once. I had to “be sociable” and interact with people. That’s something I can do, when necessary, and I even enjoy–a lot–when I’m not forced to do it. But because it was in the way of my book, I hated having to do it at the time, so I ended up doing a lot of my reading in the middle of the night, or in places where nobody knew I was reading.

But in those places, I made no apologies about what I chose to read. I didn’t have to explain myself or (in later years when I was away at college) read critically for any reason other than “Is this fun for me? Is it telling a good story?” I do read critically, and have often found myself going back to examine why I find something compelling, entertaining, thought-provoking, or attention-worthy in the first place. I’m comfortable with a certain level of saying to myself “I enjoyed reading this, but it bothered me because ___” or “I didn’t like the premise, but it worked because ___” (I do that last one with a lot more movies and TV shows than books, though. I have less patience with visual media probably because it’s inherently more “social”).

AR DeClerck

AR DeClerck isn’t afraid to jump genres between sci-fi and fantasy, or mystery and romance. Her steampunk stories come from the heart and are as satisfying as the steady tick-tick of a well-engineered piece of timekeeping elegance.

Aimee Easterling

Aimee Easterling isn’t afraid to cross the boundary between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to a fellow Linux user because open-source opens doors where windows sometimes get stuck shut.

Indie Weekend: Radish Reads and Romantic Thoughts Sat, 31 Mar 2018 13:18:05 +0000
I have this complicated relationship with the romance genre. I’ve been writing seriously for over twenty years, and most of them were spent as a card-carrying member of Romance Writers of America. Romance writers can rock this business like nobody’s business, and if you think you’re in uncharted territory, chances are, there’s a romance writer who’s already been there, done that, and left some trail markers to help you blaze your own path. And RWA is second to none when it comes to training up would-be authors into professional shape. Back in the days when Trad Publishing was the only way to go, and submission guidelines had to be mailed to you, RWA was there to tell you NOT to submit your manuscript on scented pink paper, or with cookies, or written in crayon, and definitely not to send it to the address (of the publisher’s distribution warehouse) printed in the publisher’s colophon on the copyright page (ask me how I know this last one–g’head).

But romance as a genre career choice is a harsh mistress. It’s currently the biggest genre, full of dozens of sub-genres and specialties, and the competition is brutal. Reader expectations can be even moreso. I spent a lot of time circling the target and never quite hitting it with conventional romance (and by “conventional” I mean romance that follows the patterns readers expect when they pick up a romance book, regardless of subgenre).

But you know who can handle that genre choice? These ladies right here. They’re kicking it with contemporary romances on Radish and I want to share them with you.

Nadia Lee

Nadia Lee is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy, emotional contemporary romance. Born with a love for excellent food, travel and adventure, She’s lived in four different countries, kissed stingrays, been bitten by a shark, ridden an elephant and petted tigers. (The shark part is not recommended!)

Krystal Shannan

Krystal Shannan writes billionaire contemporary romance. Fated Ever Afters. Romance. Adventure. Suspense. And just a little bit of humor.

Indie Weekend: Travel In Groups Mon, 26 Mar 2018 17:13:27 +0000
I tend to use writing as a vacation as well as a vocation, and in my downtime, I’ve been exploring other genres. I’ll never leave sci-fi, but part of me will always believe in magic, and that part of me has been playing in a high-fantasy world (and I swear to you it’s NOT my old college D&D campaign novelized. My college DM remains to this day an evil, evil Dungeon Master who loved nothing more than devising creative ways for adventuring parties to die).
Writing is not exactly the most social business. Even though we’re all over social media (or the experts say we have to be all over social media), the writing part can be just you, the walls, and a blinking cursor with no end in sight. So when you find a crew of people who understand the world in the same weird filters you do, group up with them for as much time as you can stand–those long stretches of solitude will thank you for it later. In the middle of pushing so hard to move forward through my regularly-scheduled space opera, I’ve never strayed far from straying far–last week I mentioned that I’m branching out into some new territory, just to explore the possibilities. But I’m not going it alone. I’m traveling with a great group of fellow authors who are also trying this new territory. I’mma tell you about some of ’em right now, and in the posts that follow.

Jolie Mason

Jolie Mason writes sci-fi and fantasy with heart and shares her love for space opera, love, and ‘splosions. She’s got an exciting list of Radish Reads in paranormal and sci-fi romance. Check out her Southern Gothic series, or if you’re a fan of the giant robots, the 47th Lancers are waiting for you.

Eden Ashe

…more than a little addicted to fairy tales and romance novels… Eden’s first Radish Read is “Gideon’s Revelation” – a “Knights of Hell” prequel.
The thing I love best about these two ladies is that neither one of them is afraid to try something a little off the beaten path because it’s where their hearts lead them. In the business of writing, it’s always a bit of a risk to try something new and different, or off-trend. As a reader, I have my trope-catnip, same as everybody else, but there’s another reason I read, and it’s not just to satisfy the inner trope-monster. Something special happens when you can feel an author’s love for the story leak out between the words. You get caught up in that magic, too. And I know I’m not alone–I bet every one of you can tell me a story about a story that hooked you by the bottom lip and pulled you inside of it, and filled you with magic that stayed behind long after the words “The End.” In fact, if you feel like sharing, drop a note in the comments.
Indie Weekend: Exploring Wed, 07 Mar 2018 21:04:13 +0000

One of the things I “get” to do as an indie is experiment. I use “get” in quotes because, as anyone who’s ever been in a lab with high school kids knows, the advantages can sometimes be…dubious. And that’s when things don’t get into downright dangerous. (Note: DO NOT LICK THE SCIENCE!)

Indie publishing has now reached a maturity where there exists, if not a paved highway to guaranteed success, then at least a beaten path on a map with a few outhouses and a general store along the way. There are definitely proven things you can do to stack the deck in your favor for success. They aren’t guaranteed to work every time or even be guaranteed sustainable for longer than a few weeks or months, but they are your best shot at the smoothest of several bumpy rides, should you choose to take them.

I’ve never been that great at reading maps. In Girl Scouts, I never failed to get my troop lost. But we always ended up lost in the most interesting places. I do that in my writing, too. I like to mix genres, flip tropes, play around with structure the way a ten-year-old plays with LEGOs. Publishing is no different. Even though I know there’s a marked trail, I still like to wander off the path looking at interesting flowers.

One of those uncharted paths is Radish Fiction and one of those flowers is Fantasy. Fantasy isn’t that far from Sci-fi, and we’re often lumped together, I know. But one of the markers on that beaten track is to stick to your genre lane when you build up a name. I’ve already broken that rule with my rom-coms and my paranormals, and I’m not afraid to be all over the map as I follow my muse (or rather, the Girls In The Basement – I don’t have a muse, I have five roommates that live in an epic basement with amazing decor including shag carpets and lava lamps. One entire room has been converted into a ball pit. I’ll tell you about it sometime). In the meantime, I’ll let Radish explain Radish in this cute little video that all readers can relate to.

One of the most fun things about wandering off the trail is taking some friends with you. In the coming posts, I’ll be introducing some friends who’ve also wandered into this little Radish garden, along with some short snippets of my own upcoming entry into Radish Reads. So keep an eye peeled for my next posting!