Archive | June 2018

Interview with author Karen Oberlaender

I have the great pleasure today of interviewing Karen Oberlaender, author of the short story collection, IN A SMALL COMPASS, and flash fiction series NEIGHBORS, on Marcia’s Book Talk.

Karen Oberlaender, author photograph

Welcome, Karen, it is lovely to have you here!

Thank you very much, Marcia, it is a pleasure to be here.


Q: For how long have you been writing?

A: I started writing ‘songs’ for myself when I was about elevenish. Throughout school I did not write much as we were forced to write what the ministry of education deemed necessary. At university, things changed; the topics were more interesting, and regained my love for writing. I kept writing non-fiction texts until I started my first blog, “My train of thoughts on…”, in December 2012. It took me until April 2013 to gather the courage to hit the publish button for my first short story, “Nightmare,” on my second blog, “In a Small Compass”. Let us say I have been writing – with interruptions – for a little more than 40 years.


Q: Have any life experiences inspired you to write your books?

A: Life per se is very inspiring, however not always in a pleasant way. Every story comprises bits and pieces of situations I have been in, of characteristics of the people I have met, personal insights, favourite places, and hobbies.


Q: Each writer works in different ways with reference to writing. Do you have a writing program/schedule that works for you?

A: As I have a full-time job, opportunities for writing are rare, yet very precious. Writing is mostly limited to a few hours on Saturdays or Sundays; inspiration during my non-writing life is jotted in my little black book or my smartphone for later use.


Q: Do you have any favorite book genres which you love to read?

A: I love mysteries, urban fantasy, paranormal stories, and many more.


Q: Are there any favorite books and authors who have been influential upon you and your writing?

A: I love the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz.. There is another author who has found his voice, writes in different genres, has unusual ideas he puts into unforgettable stories, who has inspired me even more: C. S. Boyack. He created one very special character, Lisa Burton. You can consider me her greatest fan, and – this incredibly kind author allowed me to integrate Lisa in “Neighbors!” He has a tiny guest appearance, and Lisa helps to solve the mysterious case.


Q: IN A SMALL COMPASS was a compelling, thought-provoking collection of short stories dealing with themes such as the paranormal and telepathy in a stimulating, enjoyable manner. What led you to write these stories, and do they reflect an interest in these subjects?

IN A SMALL COMPASS by Karen Oberlaender

A: I wrote each story for different reasons, sometimes there are dream fragments, sometimes I was inspired while travelling, in museums. These stories have one thing in common: to help those in need. Each day, innumerable things happen, often they cannot really be explained; there can be noises, scents, etc. So, yes – to a certain degree I am actually interested.


Q: Amongst your stories, is there one which is closest to your heart, and why?

A: All these stories are very dear to me. Within this first volume, I have to name two of them. One is “Laura non c’è”: I dreamt of a young Italian woman who took her life in her own hands after an unfortunate relationship. She travels to Munich and meets Laura, a British student. “Laura non c’è” is a song by Nek; the title means “Laura is not here”. This song obviously made a great title for this story.

The second story is “Directions”. I dreamt of the black car and the voice asking for directions in Skerries. As Skerries is like home for us, I opted once again for a paranormal helping hand.


Q: You have just published a flash fiction series entitled NEIGHBORS! featured on your website in book form. Did you intend to compile these segments into a single book, and when did you decide to turn the story into a book?

NEIGHBORS! by Karen Oberlaender

A: It is due to one of my readers’ comments that Neighbors! was born. In 2014, participated in the Flash Fiction Friday challenge. One Friday, we were challenged to write a story of 150+/- 10 words, a photo of mailboxes, and to include an unpaid bill. I really liked the story I came up with, published it on my blog and – received this feedback: “I liked the message stuck on the cactus. Trouble is, I want to know more.” I felt the same. As I wanted to keep the concept of flash fiction and a certain number of words, I did not plan anything. In episode 61, I realised that this meant the end. My daughter did no longer accept excuses for not publishing my stories, and I started researching ways to publish.


Q: You are currently writing a flash fiction series entitled OH! MY! DOG! on your website. Will you one day be compiling these segments into a single book, or would like to continue this on a serialized basis?

A: This flash fiction series will also become a book one day. This series originated in a dream – I saw a young man reading a newspaper on his tablet, and a black labrador retriever who showed him something by laying his paw on the young man’s knee. I do not know yet, how many episodes will be there, just that every episode will consist of 200+/-10 words.


Q: Are there any genres you would like to write in?

A: I would like to write suspense with a touch of other genres; currently it is rather contemporary with a touch of suspense and other genres.


Q: Do you have any favorite TV shows, either from the past, or currently on the air?

A: There are some I really enjoy: The IT Crowd, The Big Bang Theory, Scott & Bailey, Bob Ross – The Joy of Painting, and a lot more.


Q: Are there any hobbies or pastimes you like to participate in when you have spare time?

A: Reading time – even if scarce – is always planned into my schedule. Then there are topics like linguistics, research, humanity, animal protection. My husband and I love travelling, going to the cinema, watching the local sports teams (except football (=soccer)).


Q: Are you left-handed, or right-handed? Being a left-hander, it is interesting to see how many writers are either one or the other, or ambidextrous.

A: I am right-handed, whereas my daughter is left-handed.


Q: Do you have any other writing projects, or new/upcoming releases, that you would like to mention to readers?

A: I am always collecting bits and pieces of inspiration, so there are more stories on the way. Around November/December, I am going to publish IN A SMALL COMPASS, VOL. 2.


I am certain you will join me in thanking Karen for her time, and that we look forward to reading more of her works in the future. If you wish to contact Karen she is available on:



*Smashwords page

*Karen’s website

*Karen’s blog

Further Links:

+In a Small Compass, Vol. 1 can also be accessed on books2read

+Neighbors! can also be accessed on books2read



Author Doug J. Cooper provides a sneak peek at CRYSTAL ESCAPE, the final book in the CRYSTAL series

I have the great pleasure today of hosting Doug J. Cooper, author of the CRYSTAL series science fiction novels, including CRYSTAL DECEPTION, CRYSTAL CONQUEST, CRYSTAL REBELLION and prequel CRYSTAL HORIZON, to Marcia’s Book Talk. Today Doug will be providing readers with a preview of CRYSTAL ESCAPE, the final part in the CRYSTAL science-fiction series. Now for more on CRYSTAL ESCAPE, over to Doug on his fascinating new book…

Doug J. Cooper, author photograph

Welcome, Doug, it is lovely to have you here!

Thank you, Marcia, for inviting me to visit your blog. I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you and your readers about the Crystal Series books. In particular, I am excited to announce the release of the final book in the sci-fi saga, Crystal Escape, due out in July, 2018.

I’d like to use this visit to give everyone a peek into the Crystal Series world and the interesting characters inhabiting it. I’ll do this by presenting a few short scenes from the new book, Crystal Escape.

Before I start, though, I’m thrilled to reveal the new book cover, shown here with the rest of the series. Did you know that the sequence of silhouette images combined with your imagination tell a story? Can you see one in the covers?

Crystal Series Covers

The scenes that follow introduce the four recurring characters in the series. Criss is a brilliant, self-aware artificial intelligence (AI), and he is hard-wired to protect and serve three humans. These include Dr. Jessica “Juice” Tallette, the scientist who created Criss; Cheryl Wallace, captain of the Fleet space cruiser Alliance; and Sid, a covert spy for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The story of how Criss was born and how these three came to be his leadership is told in the first full length book, Crystal Deception. (Crystal Horizon is a short prequel to the series.)

In the new book, Crystal Escape, Cheryl and Juice are kidnapped while on a luxury vacation, and are positioned as human shields while the kidnapper flees the solar system. Criss and Sid give chase to rescue the two, and to bring the kidnapper to justice.

I chose these following scenes because they hint that a good sci-fi story is a good story with science as a central theme. And any good story begins with its characters.


In this first scene, we meet Juice and Cheryl as they arrive at Vivo, a domed island retreat. All hospitality on the island is provided by synbods, which are human-like bio-mechanical bodies controlled by AI crystal brains. Here they are moments after they arrive at Vivo:

“Hello, ladies,” said a sandy-haired thirty-year-old, his cream-white shirtsleeves rolled up to his forearms, a careless grin raising his cheeks. “I’m Justin. May I show you to your room?” He lifted his bangs as he spoke, revealing beautiful blue eyes.

“Show me.” Juice waved her hand, the sight of this gorgeous man adding to her excitement.

“Keep it in your pants,” Cheryl whispered, nudging her shoulder against Juice’s in a playful manner as they started to walk. “Synbod means synthetic body.”

“I know. My theory is that it’s not cheating if it’s with a synthetic.”

Cheryl frowned. “Gross.”


While the two women have a playful side, Cheryl’s Fleet training is never far from the surface. When things start to go south, we see her transition into a tough, natural, leader:

Cheryl squared up in front of MacMac. “Where could you get control of this?”

“There’s an ops panel in the cellar, but I can tell from here that I’ve been locked out. I might be able to backdoor in from my office.”

She studied his face, seeking to judge him during the exchange. “Where is that? Your office?”

“Fifth floor of the tower.”

After a moment’s pause, she gave MacMac the benefit of the doubt. “Let’s go there.”

Starting for the door, she organized them into formation. “Justin, you’re on point. Chase, you have the rear.” She leaned close to MacMac as they stepped into the hall. “Tell me what you’re doing as we go. Don’t surprise me.”


Later in the story, Juice finds four synbods that have been disabled. As a leading crystal scientist, she is one of a handful of people with the ability to activate them, reassign their loyalty, and bring them into the fight. Here she is, doing just that:

The synbod came to life and lifted its body upright in the cart.

“Your name is Alpha,” said Juice. “I am your lead. Acknowledge.”

Alpha looked at her and paused to gather an array of data—sights, sounds, smells—to use for future identification of his leadership. “Alpha acknowledges.”

“Fix your clothes and stand here.” Juice pointed to a spot on the ground and moved to the next synbod. After activating Bravo and Charlie, she got to the last synbod.

“Your name is…damn.” She couldn’t remember the word that went with D in the phonetic alphabet. Shrugging, she said, “I am your lead. Acknowledge.”

The synbod looked at her and processed her unique identifiers. “Damn acknowledges.”

“Follow,” Juice told her new squad.


Sid, like Cheryl, is now a civilian, but he too came from a strong military background. Sid is a kid at heart, at times appearing goofy. Here he is playing in his personal spacecraft.

Sid signaled the nav and the runner accelerated into the tunnel. “Here I go.” He heard the excitement in his voice and it made him laugh. Then he engaged the runner’s external boosters and the tiny craft shot forward with a growl, racing through the darkness.

His display tracked his speed as he went faster and faster, but his visceral pleasure didn’t come from numbers on a gauge. It came from the pressure of acceleration pinning his head against the support pads, the punch to his gut as that same force pushed his body deep into his seat, and from the blurring of the orange markings on the tunnel walls as his speed climbed, transitioning through fast and edging deep into reckless.

“Woohoo!” he crowed as the forces stretched his grin across his face.


But Sid can be all business when the situation demands, especially when protecting his own. Here he is, expressing his opinion about a killer who is escaping:

“Blast her with an energy bolt and evaporate her,” said Sid. “No joke. If they’re away, let’s end this.”

Cheryl looked at Criss. “Could you do that? Take her out from here?”

Criss nodded. “While a precision shot is impossible through the dust cloud, a kill shot is easy with enough energy behind it. I can take her anytime over the next week.”


Cheryl looked at Sid and quoted procedure. “We have time to debrief them. I think we should wait.”

Sid’s forehead creased and he looked to Criss. “You’re confident about the kill window?”

Criss nodded.

He shook his head as if to contradict his words. “Okay, we’ll debrief them and then shoot her.”


And through it all, Criss works to maintain his loyalty while keeping the group functioning in harmony. Here he is, making it easy for Cheryl and Juice to follow their natural instincts:

Criss, standing behind Cheryl, looked over her shoulder at MacMac. As soon as Criss saw him—a blood-soaked rag tied to his forehead, white face, dry mouth, glazed eyes, dropping blood pressure, rising pulse—he acted.

Lunging forward, Criss caught the man as he collapsed. He lifted MacMac in his arms and started toward the rear of the scout. As he moved down the passageway, he reconfigured the common room from Sid’s exercise simulation over to an intensive care unit.

“I need medical assistance,” he called back over his shoulder.

He didn’t need help, but he knew both Cheryl and Juice would seek to participate. By creating roles for them and guiding their efforts, he could keep them involved and get useful work from them at the same time.

So there you have a quick introduction to the characters of the series. I hope you found them interesting enough to learn more.


In closing, I’d like to note that the books not only have fun characters and great action, they are filled with thought-provoking ideas. This scene illustrates with one of the more controversial notions in the series:

Willow looked the synbod up and down. “Why do you make them so perfect? They’d be more relatable if you gave them flaws.”

“You aren’t the first to say that,” said Juice. “If we create a visually flawed synbod, I fear the public would view it as a quality control problem. And those thoughts could lead to suspicion about the things people can’t see, like the quality of the artificial intelligence inside.”


“Mr. Phillips, my science teacher, says that someday we’ll build an AI that’s self-aware and smarter than we are.”

“Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?” asked Juice.

“He calls it the singularity. We create an AI in our image, then it creates an even smarter one in its image. That keeps going, with ever more powerful intelligences following the next.”

“Where does it stop?”

“Not until the very top. He says that religion has it backward. In reality, it’s always been humanity’s destiny to create the Almighty.”

Wow! There you have it, Marcia. Thank you so much for letting me talk about my work. I enjoyed my visit. Happy reading!


I am certain you will join me in thanking Doug for his time, and that we look forward to reading more of his works in the future. You may download a FREE copy of CRYSTAL HORIZON on his website at:


If you wish to contact Doug he is available on:





*Doug’s website




New Release: THE ILLUMINATION QUERY is now available to readers


Author Sarah Baethge’s new book THE ILLUMINATION QUERY (Part 1: The Speed of Darkness) is now available to readers on



*Barnes and Noble


A synopsis of the book is below:

‘Ronald Carpenter (the narrator) is a zookeeper that gets help from a company called The Eclipse when he needs to recapture some escaped animals. The company takes a shine to him and lures him into working for them. They are keeping a zoo of animals that they use for medical testing and are happy to have his expertise in accommodating them. To prove his loyalty they have him come along to take the scientist Nigel hunter captive.

Ronald and Nigel come to find out that the creatures kept by The Eclipse are supernatural animals that the average person would not consider real. The Eclipse is keeping ‘fantasy’ creatures for testing because they have no legal protections and many of them, like werewolves, are nearly human.

Now the story is from Nigel’s point of view and the time is set back to a little before he was taken captive. Nigel Hunter was working for a lab owned by The Eclipse, but his test animals were rats and he is unaware of the supernatural testing. After an accident, he decides to test a procedure that allows great speed on himself. The rats with the increased speed begin to die off. The Eclipse higher ups decide that Nigel is as good as a test animal and get Ronald to take him captive.

Being held with the test creatures, Nigel becomes friends with the beings he is kept among as he is basically tortured by Eclipse folk who want to see the impossible speed. He and friend creatures decide that he is fast enough to possibly escape and get help to stand against The Eclipse.’


For more about Sarah, check out her author page on

Sarah Baethge, author photograph