Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Dying for Space by S.J. Higbee

Title: Dying for Space
Series: The Sunblinded Trilogy #2
Author: S.J. Higbee
Genre: Science Fiction
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: 14 December 2017

Cadet Officer Elizabeth Wright just wants to make her father proud, while the mercenary warlord is looking for her to replace his dead family…

I finally get the opportunity to become a serving officer and fulfil my childhood dream, as well as get to know my biological father, General Norman. And when I first clap eyes on Restormel, the HQ of my father’s space mercenary outfit, it’s the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen.

But appearances can be deceptive. There are dark secrets hidden in the twisting corridors and blood-soaked cells beneath the training grounds and banqueting rooms. Secrets that seep out. Secrets that demand fresh victims, because whatever else happens, they can’t be allowed to see the light of day…


A beautiful fair-skinned, green-eyed woman was pacing up and down the sumptuous hallway. “Good evening, my dear. I’m Fina Giftstar—” Her fine eyes widened as she took in my appearance.

“Good evening, Miss Giftstar. Elizabeth N-Norman at your service.” I stepped out of the lift, stifling my urge to salute. I knew about Fina, of course. Everyone at Restormel did. Norman’s long-term companion, she acted as official hostess for all his social occasions now Mrs Norman was dead, although she’d been around a deal longer than that.

She was still staring at me as if I’d sprouted horns and a tail.

As I smoothed the heavy folds bagging across my stomach, she flinched. Doubt began squirming in my gut. “Is… it alright?”

Her smile was as tight as her grip on my arm. “Tell you what, Elizabeth, let’s visit the Ladies Room, shall we?”

It was a struggle to keep my balance in those instruments of torture as she hustled me along thickly carpeted corridors, jabbing the door open and pushing me inside.

“Stay here! I’ll be back.” She rushed out.

I perched on the upholstered bench seat, trying to avoid my reflection in the mirrors. It was now 20.10 hrs and Norman had views on lateness. Unable to pace due to my blistered feet, I continued to fidget for a very long ten minutes.

Until I heard Norman’s voice boom through the closed door. “If this is some female nonsense, Fina, you’ll be wishing that—”

“Don’t. Go there.” Miss Giftstar sounded equally aggravated. “You should be thanking me on your knees for not bringing her to your fancy banquet looking like some station stray in fancy dress.”

“You exaggerate, woman! She’s a pretty girl. It’s a beautiful gown. How bad could it be?”

“Oh, I agree. She’s the potential to be a real beauty. Which is why it’s a crime to make her look so ridiculous—”

Holed heavens – has she got a death wish?

As if she heard my thoughts, she caught herself. “Doesn’t matter how it happened, love. What we need is to fix it. Fast.”

“Still reckon you’re making a supernova out of a sunspot,” Norman’s voice magnified abruptly as he barrelled through the door.

I shot to my feet, wincing at the stabbing spots of agony where the shoes pinched. “Hallo, Father.”

Miss Giftstar had followed him into the room, her expression grimly satisfied. “See?”

His brows knotted into a frown. “How’s she blixed it up, then? This dress – it was a triumph. It looked magnificent on...”

Doubtless, he’d seen some big-bosomed beauty wiggling her curvy attributes along a virtual catwalk and assumed it would suit me. I gritted my teeth and stood to attention, wishing I was back in the barracks, cleaning my kit. He’ll shed me faster than a tachy-blink anyhow if I can’t pass muster with his precious guests.

Meantime Miss Giftstar was holding Norman’s arm and gabbling, “The colour’s all wrong, for starters. Washes her out. And those frills and pleats are designed to flatter a-a fuller figure.

All they do is emphasise that she is slightly built. And as for the make-up, don’t worry. I can fix—”

Norman, scowling at me, cut across her, “Dreg it, Elizabeth! Stop looking like you’re about to be shot.”

Convinced I was about to be flushed away, I’d had enough. “Oh, yes please. Shoot me. Anything – hot pincers included – has got to be more fun than dragging around in something that makes me look like something spat up from a black hole.” I glared at him with hands on hips. Before the hard reality of my situation hit me like a rock on the head. This is it. He’ll tell me to pack. And I’ve nowhere to go.

Norman threw back his head, roaring with laughter, before finally wheezing, “Ah, there’s your Mum’s temper.”

Behind his back, Miss Giftstar winked and gave me the ‘OK’ handsig.

Relief rolling through me, I was busy trying not to buckle at the knees. Norman wasn’t about to kick me out, after all. And Miss Giftstar was on my side. She’s only saying those hurtful things about my appearance because she wants me looking my best. Doesn’t she?

She glided across the room to me, linking her arm through mine. “Give us another half hour, William. I’ll make your girl a fairy princess. There’s… other dresses I’ve put by,” she said softly as they exchanged an odd, suffering look.

What’s going on? There’s something here I’m missing. Besides, I’d long since grown out’ve any notion I’d be suitable princess material. As if to prove it, I tripped over the wretched hem, while hobbling alongside Fina.

“And why are you staggering about like a newbie in a minefield?” snapped Norman

“The shoes are too small.” I levered them off my feet with a wince.

He jammed a cigar in his mouth, looking sour enough to curdle vinegar. “Too skinny with big feet...”

I held my breath, waiting for his flickoff.

“ come she’s so easy on the eye in those combat fatigues, then?”

I let the breath go. So help me, when I’m finally in charge of my life, I’ll make people very sorry if they go on talking about me as if I was a piece of furniture.

Fina Giftstar’s giggle took ten years off her. “You’re also easy on the eye, love. But you wouldn’t look your desirable best in an all-in-one leather skinsuit.”

I kept my face blank, busy not imagining Norman slinking around in the latest trendedge outfit favoured by fashmad young officers when off-duty.

Norman’s grunt wasn’t amused. “Careful where you aim that humour, woman. This evening is important. Make a fool of me and you’ll be sorry.”

She drew herself up. “No need to threaten me, William. If I’d wanted this evening to head hellwards, all I had to do was keep quiet.”

I blinked. She’d been beautiful in a restrained well-bred way, but temper ignited her looks making her glow and now I understood why Norman was so attracted to her.

“Come on, my dear.” Tightening her grip on my arm, Fina whisked by him and out into the hallway. We sped down the corridor at a quick march, before wheeling into her bedroom, past the guards outside her door, who opened her door as we approached.

My jaw dropped at the sheer size of the room, furnished in shades of lilac. It seemed to stretch on forever, an effect amplified by the mirrored walls. Fina Giftstar darted towards a row of doors lining the long wall, flinging them open and muttering under her breath. Grabbing an armful of dresses, she turned back to me. “Flaming Mercury, girl! You know what he’s like when things don’t go according to plan. Get yourself out of that wretched rag yesterday!”

I fumbled with the fastenings, wishing the thing had been fitted with easi-snug clips.

“Hurry up! We’ll still be here come Christmas.” She started yanking at the back of the dress, “Thought all you English girlies learnt how to turn yourselves into eye candy at your Mums’ knees.”

Not if Mum was an ex-merc officer, pregnant with the General’s bastard and married off to the nearest handy bloke.

I gratefully stepped out of the dress as it pooled in a purple heap on the pastel carpet. Staring at my scrawniness with a slight frown, she prowled around me, kicking Norman’s magnificent garment out of her way like it was a used nosewipe. She grabbed a pale pink dress from the frothy, multi-coloured bundle on the bed and holding it up against me, she nodded.

I wasn’t convinced. It was plain, with a simple scooped neck and straight, three-quarter length sleeves.

“Come on. We’ve a lot to do and not much time.” However, she was far gentler as she slipped the dressed over my head and clipped the easi-snug fittings together.

The dress shrank – and then stopped. Still too big.

I stared at my reflection in horror. “Mother Earth above, he’ll be so angry.”

Miss Giftstar hadn’t finished. “Turn around – there. That’s it... No, stand still, why don’t you?” She was fiddling with-

“That’s Tuf-Tape!” Mum used the stuff as a universal fix-it around the house when the Cap was away. Or used to. Don’t know what she does, now. Haven’t heard from any of them since... Wonder how the boys are? I stamped on that thought. Hard. I had other worries to contend with. For instance, Miss Giftstar, here, was taping me into this dress.

First book in the series:
Running Out of Space
S.J. Higbee

“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…”

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 and you’re very welcome to pop onto my website and my Facebook page.

Guest Post by S.J. Higbee:

That tricky conversation which led to my major rewrite of the Sunblinded trilogy…

It was all going reasonably well, given that I hadn’t self published anything before. Running Out of Space had been edited and re-edited, the cover bought, ISBNs organised, the blurb written… And then, just after I’d sent out the review copies for the blog tour, I had a chance to sit down with my writing oppo, Mhairi Simpson, and mull over a niggle that had kept me awake for the past couple of nights. 
To be honest, I expected her to wave it away and tell me that I was making a fuss about nothing and that it was all fine. But she didn’t. She looked me thoughtfully and said, ‘Honestly? I think you’re right. I think you have a problem. I think you should pull the book in its current form and fix it.’ 
And the problem we were talking about was the fact that my young protagonist wasn’t called Elizabeth Wright – before the rewrite her name was Jezel Campo and she served aboard Estrella Fugaz instead of the merchanting ship Shooting Star. Her family and the community she had been born into were Iberian and originated from the outskirts of Madrid in Spain, not London, England. So why did I suddenly decide to change it? Because when I wrote the book way back in 2007, it simply didn’t occur to me that setting a story within another community could be a problem. After all, the idea came to me from a song and then a dream, which was so very vivid that I just got up and wrote it all down without thinking too much about whether that was okay or not.
I’d initially sold the book to a small American publisher, who was very happy to have a book with an Iberian protagonist and by the time the deal fell through and I retrieved my manuscript of Running Out Space and the copyright, I’d already written the other two books in the series.
The story is about the girl’s struggle with her family’s expectations and how she deals with it. Throughout the trilogy, the faultlines in the basic family structure set within its community, are under scrutiny through her viewpoint. As I was going through the final line edit, I became increasingly – and uncomfortably – aware that she has some pertinent and critical things to say about her family, the community and the role of women in both.
If I was writing a literary or feminist novel where the intention was to drill down into these issues, then causing offence in a community other than my own, might – just about – be an acceptable consequence if it added something to the wider discussion. But I’m writing genre fiction with the primary purpose of providing escapist entertainment with hopefully, some thought provoking ideas. I don’t want my books to be the cause of any upset. So I took the decision to have my spacefaring merchanters originate from England – my own country and my own culture.
I’ve been surprised at the strength of feeling this issue has engendered. A couple of my writing friends, including Mhairi, felt it needed to be done. But several others have been quite upset that I made those changes. As for me? It was a massive amount of work in a very short space of time. I apologise for the inevitable errors that will have crept into the texts along the way – but I just felt a real sense of relief once I’d completed the task. Because whatever other shortcomings or criticisms readers may have regarding the Sunblinded trilogy – no one will be reading it with rising anger or offence at the way I have portrayed a community of which I’m not a member.

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This is my stop during the book blitz for Dying for Space by S.J. Higbee.
I hope you enjoyed reading.

The book blitz runs from 14 till 31 December.

This book blitz is organized by: