Monday, July 18, 2011

Author Interview: T. K. Toppin

I had the wonderful privilege of interviewing author T. K. Toppin and learned more about her latest release, The Lancaster Trilogy Book Two, The Master Key.

Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I live in Barbados, a teeny island in the Caribbean surrounded by sea and sand. It’s a fairly laid back place to live, (if you don’t mind the heat) and I’m thoroughly Bajan, the term used for people born here or who’ve gone native. I’m the former. I’m married, no kids (phew), two geriatric dogs, and a black cat that thinks he’s human.

Initially, I started out as a graphic artist, something I’ve been doing for over twenty years. But, I’ve always wanted to write (something, anything!). So a couple years ago, I just did it. I haven’t stopped writing since.

Before we get into your specific story, tell us a little about The Lancaster Trilogy.
The Lancaster story is about a young woman who finds herself in a stasis pod and awakes 300 years into the future. From there, she has to learn how to live in this future and cope with the sudden realization that she has lost everything. She also finds love, a reason to stay in the future she’s found herself in, and also uncovers all the truths about her life and why she really ends up in the future. Each book is like a beginning, a middle, and an end – from her discovery of where she is and the foundation of the entire trilogy, to where she uncovers the truths about her past and having to deal with it, to finally, where she takes a stand and ends the madness that was her past, and makes a conscious effort to put it all behind her and really live in the future she’s been catapulted into. Does that make any sense?

Tell us a little about The Master Key
In this, the second book in the trilogy, my protagonist, Josie is settling into married life with John. Pretty soon, she discovers that a relation of hers holds the secrets of her past, and from there, the story leaps forth into action. It takes her way out into space to a space station where a battle begins to save the world from her villainous nephew. With her husband at her side, Josie fights to regain all the truths about her past.

What was your inspiration for the story?
I love reading books with adventure and action and unforgettable characters that make the story worth reading. I always seek out books of that nature. And if I ever wanted to write, that was the sort of book I’d write.

The basic outline of the Lancaster Trilogy pretty much came about along the lines of an adventure. I knew it would happen in the future, and I knew I wanted to have unforgettable characters. The general story just sort of developed in my head first, and a lot of it was the concept of “what if this where to happen” (in the future, and if someone from the past where to end up in it). And it just sort of built up on that idea.

What kind of research did you do for the book?
Mostly, I Googled stuff or Wikipedia’d things I wanted to know about, like the sciences and technology, and stasis pods, machines, weapons, fighting techniques. Quite a bit was made up…why not, right?

What do you enjoy most about writing Science Fiction Romance?
The ability to have characters that can interact and humanize the story, so it’s not so tech-oriented and gives it an even balance. While my romance bits are very mild and tame, the interaction is there, or the relationship. For me, that’s the key foundation that builds the story and takes it into the other bits of tech-stuff and action and adventure. I tried a contemporary story, but it lacked something…the SF aspect. So I trashed the story altogether. Then the idea for the Lancaster stories came about, so I dragged out the old story, mixed it up, stirred in some elements, and incorporated it into the Lancaster books. It worked. I’m not saying I’ll never write a contemporary story, but for now, I’m having too much fun creating worlds and living in the future.

Can you tell us more about your other published works?
My only other published work is The Lancaster Rule, which is the beginning of the trilogy. In this book, Josie wakes up and has to learn how to live in the future. She meets many obstacles, finds love, uncovers a plot to take over the world, and helps to stop this from happening. One reviewer called it a high-octane ride into the future.

Any upcoming projects?
I’ve just completed a work in progress, another SFR, which is in the hands of a few beta readers. I’ve two more ideas, half-completed, and set in the Lancaster world. Eventually I’ll get around to finishing them.

Where can we find you on the web?
My blogsite:
Facebook: The Lancaster Rule or Written by T.K. Toppin
Twitter: TKToppin

Buy Link for The Lancaster Trilogy Book Two: The Master Key:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Women in Fantasy

Today I'm excited to have a writer buddy,
Marion Sipe, on to talk about Women in Fantasy. She has a new release, A Sign in Blood, that contains some strong female characters. (More about this awesome new book and how you can win a copy below.)

All we go!


I've sat down to write this guest post no less than three times and each time my brain boggles. It's a huge topic to cover. There have been so many women in fantasy, and I tend to read fantasy with female leads. You probably haven't heard of at least some of my favorites. While that's often true because fantasy is really a huge genre, it's also true because I mostly read female writers. I just find they more often write female MCs that I love.

And maybe that's the problem. I've heard it said that, while women are willing to read stories with male MCs, men are less willing to read stories with female MCs. Now, that's "common wisdom" which means it may or may not be true. I haven't done any surveys.

But it's funny how many times I'll be wandering about in the SFF online community and come across some guy who is more than willing to explain to me why women never fought on a historical battlefield (untrue), why women shouldn't be portrayed as warriors (ridiculous), and why women are incapable of defending themselves if the opponent is male (somebody get me a clue bat, please?). And I have run into this attitude even up into this year. And it doesn't matter how you respond (your response probably won't be read, and your links won't change anyone's mind even if they are read) so there's little else to do but sigh and move on. Unless you're in a bad mood and then, well, go to town.

And then, of course, there are the people who will tell you, "Well, women don't play much part in the story." Maybe it's because the women are oppressed (makes them even better characters) or because the story is about knights (Joan of Arc, anyone?) or because the story's in a somewhat historical setting and women didn't play much of a role in history (Umm, excuse me, have you read any?). There are numerous excuses, but the point here is that, in writing worlds without any real female characters, you're cutting out half of a population.

I'm not saying every book has to have a female POV (after all, some books only have one), although I certainly wouldn't mind, or that there should be a 50/50 split and if there isn't you're sexist. But if you can't think of a single thing for the women of your world to do in a story, you're probably not really thinking about it. This is only more true if your culture treats men and women differently. That only gives the women more new and interesting things to say/think/experience, things their male contemporaries can't.

Now, some of you may say that we've come a long way from the days of the damsel in distress, that's not always true. If every woman needs to be saved by the hero, I'm not going to like your book. Because seriously, where are the rest of the women? Most the women I know would a) beat off the villain with a chair, but also b) freak the hell out after the villain was dead (or impaired enough to make running an option). And while that's not always the proper response for a battle-hardened what-have-you killer, it is human. Because humans are flawed, and I'm willing to bet that any other SFF race you want to name? Probably flawed, too. In different ways, perhaps, but flawed nonetheless.

Damsels in distress are boring, but you know what else is boring? Flawless women warriors who can kick six kinds of ass without breaking a nail (or a bone) or ruining their clothes, and usually wind up getting saved by the hero anyway. Now, don't get me wrong, I have a huge soft-spot for ass-kicking women, but too often that's all these characters are. They're shown to be top-notch at everything, from swordplay to drinking, gambling, sex, computers, languages... Whatever the plot calls for and whatever will turn the hero on.

These are not strong female characters; these are a different brand of cardboard. I want to read women who are characters. Cardboard doesn't always mean "damsel in distress," it can also mean "too 'perfect' to be real." So ask yourself, does So-and-so ever just plain mess up? Does she ever trust the wrong person? Does she ever turn her back on someone who's dangerous? Does she ever mistake a situation, or let pride drive her to the wrong actions? Does she ever get too caught up in the world inside her head to understand the world outside it? And does she pull herself up (or get help, I don't mind as long as she's an actual character) and keep going in spite of that?

If she does, point me toward her, because that's the woman I totally want to read! Hell, that's the character I want to read, regardless of their gender (or potential "lack" thereof).

With A Sign in Blood, I have three main female characters, all of whom have a POV. I liked how each one viewed their world differently, how each of them saw things through their own filter, and how each of them interpreted what they saw. I liked writing each of them for different reasons, and I hope that each of them holds their own.

Liral is a far cry from a kick-ass heroine, but that doesn't mean she won't take a stand and make it stick. Chadri gets knocked down time and again, but always stands back up. Nathias' pays a hefty price for her choices, but she doesn't let that kill her even when it would have been so easy to do so. They're all characters, and they all handle things in their own ways, and they all keep moving forward.


Thank you so much, Marion! I loved your post and can't wait to read your book. (Added to TBR as we speak, uh, write, uh, type...well, you get what I mean.)

Okay, blogger buddies...leave a comment and enter in the chance to win a free copy of A Sign in Blood. If Marion's post hasn't excited you enough, well, besides being crazy bananas, here's more about the book:

While investigating her father's murder, Chadri never meant to get involved in politics. She arrives in Mesaceal with her mentor Nathias and a wild talent for blood magic, but soon finds it won't be enough to stop a brutal attack on her family home. After befriending a queen who is forced to fight to win her crown, and learning of rumors about the theft of a sleeping god, Chadri is caught up in a web of conflict spanning two nations. Trapped within the tightening threads, she must unravel the secrets surrounding her father's death, or die the same way he did.

Buy Links:

Marion's Blog: (also part of my Blog Roll)

Friday, July 15, 2011


Yes, I am being seduced.

It's clever, underhanded, and, and, and sneaky.

Here I am with several deadlines looming and my main character in the new manuscript is teasing me. Luring me in to her story web if you will. I keep telling her she has to wait, but she doesn't wanna. She wants attention now and is purposefully giving tidbits of the story that are irresistible.

I think I'm losing the battle, which will mean late nights to ensure I get everything done on time. I'm trying to be more upset about this, but I'm just too darn excited to be really mad.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Road Back to Walking

I'm so psyched. Today I was finally able to walk to work again and it felt great.

As you may or may not know I had a "fun" little stint with some medical problems the beginning of the year (yeah, nice welcome from 2011 to yours truly)... mysterious head pain that lasted months, then after diagnosed as a brain tumor chose to still cause pain. Yeah, yeah, I know. I assumed that when you figured out what it was you could fix it. Which, technically was true. They said I could either take medication until it worsened or I could have it cut out.

Nervous me decided the procrastination route via loads of medication until I could get the courage for surgery. Hey, I may play a hero in my own mind but in real life I'm a complete chicken. The idea of robot navigated "weapons" (they call them surgical devices but I'm skeptical) slicing anything let alone my skull and brain was enough to cause me to nearly pee my pants. But, my "problem" decided to take a life of its own and wigged out on me -- evilly turned on me without provocation -- sending me to the ER and then into surgery.

This was about two months ago now. After that wonderful event I had to heal. No big outer wounds, most was internal. My sensory system would overload. Walking along a busy road near schools and shopping centers was too much. (I barely handled business meetings that included more than 5 people there for a while.)

Today was a big feat...and a surprising boost for my writing. I realized most of my creative time happened during my walks to and from work. By the time I got to the office I had several plot hang ups worked out and I couldn't wait to get home and work on them.

Monday, July 4, 2011

US Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July my fellow Americans!

As you all know, I am super patriotic. All American. Whoot USA! So, if you're not, you might want to not read this post.

Fair warning...okay, moving on.

There's an adventurous, competitive side in every American that some people confuse for cocky...LOL, okay, we're also very cocky too. We can't help it. I mean come on, taking on the big 'ole ocean we moved to a whole other continent, far away from our homeland. We struggled to make a home and then took on the great British government to keep our freedom.

Yeah, there's a lot wrong with the US of A...but there's a lot right too. I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world. Any complaining Americans...thank goodness you live here, where you have a right to be unhappy with you own government.

Okay, there's my patriotic rant. Now I'm going to go celebrate with food and fireworks. Have a great day all!