Last Star Standing
by Spaulding Taylor
GENRE: Thriller (speculative)
Aiden has always felt like an outsider. After the rebel assassin is captured and imprisoned by the world’s galactic overlords, he awaits execution. Then a mole working for the occupying regime alerts him to a plot that could destroy the entire resistance…
Engineering a daring escape, Aiden’s growing feud with the new rebel leader leaves him out in the cold and smouldering with resentment. Faced with deceit and betrayals on every side, he recruits a group of overlooked outcasts and stakes everything on one last mission.
Can the restless, reckless Aiden take a stand long enough to save humanity from enslavement?
Lips parted, the woman pressed eagerly forward. The target smiled at her but instead selected a pudgy lad of about six. He passed a skinny guy – who looked, the poor sap, practically broken-hearted. He was almost upon us. My heart sped until it seemed ready to jerk straight out of my chest. Choose me. Choose me. CHOOSE ME.
The Enlightened One seemed – or was it only my imagination? – to be gazing directly at me. Pushing swiftly past Petra I extended my hand. He turned, made a strange gesture, almost of benediction, then wired the back of my hand with that thick blackened stump. An instant surge of heat pulsed up my arm and throughout my torso. Then a wild swirl of fuchsia-slashed-with-orange flashed beneath my eyelids, as if the same stars, fiery and spot-lit against the black, had been injected into my brain. My every corpuscle felt fired, an almost intoxicating sensation, especially after the chill of the poison. I half-stumbled, almost squashing a smallish alien, and only saved myself from falling at the last second.
Through a haze – my eyeballs felt as if they were swimming in flaming waterfalls – I saw Petra and moved towards her. Of course. She couldn’t risk being stamped, in case the creature died too fast. As we walked the ornate brand began to swell on my hand – a warming, tightening feeling. The sense of strangeness accelerated, though this might have been from my borrowed DNA, the chilled poison in my blood, or the fiery stamp. But nothing could dent my happiness, because – I’d done it. I’d assassinated The Enlightened One.
Advice for fellow writers, or what I did wrong
Hmm. As an ex-agony aunt – and even as an aunt – I love to advise. However, having done almost everything wrong since returning to the literary fray tends to give me pause.
So there’s my list of What I Did Wrong, from which – I hope! – my fellow novelists might take away a few nuggets of usefulness.
1) I didn’t pick a genre and stick to it, which is the key to success.
Yes, it’s more fun to try a bit of everything but… it’s hard enough work to have a social media presence/maintain a strong email newsletter list/and keep on top of what other writers are doing in ONE genre, let alone TWO…
2) I used a pen name.
And my advice? Nix the pen name. I was advised – sorry, guys!!! – to use a masculine pen name for my action/adventure, Kirkus-starred speculative thriller.
There were two reasons for this advice: (a) male/anonymous names are supposed to appeal more to male readers and (b) I’d already been published in contemporary fiction as Alice McVeigh. And some contemporary fiction readers can be snobbish about thrillers.
I was told: don’t muddy the waters/keep ‘em separate/don’t let the guys know you aren’t one. I already mentioned one issue with this – it’s annoying doing separate newsletters for different genres – but there are others:
a) BookBub only allows one author name per person. ☹
b) Amazon blows your cover. Sigh. Here’s Amazon: “Spaulding Taylor is the PEN NAME of ALICE McVEIGH, a London-based GHOSTWRITER.” ☹
c) …It’s just so difficult. The bank accounts, the googleplay, the whole tax bit.
I decided a while back to come clean about Spaulding Taylor’s being a woman. Admittedly, this was after Last Star Standing has done so well in some many awards and competitions but… I really think I was worrying for nothing in the first place. Loads of guys have read it who know who I am. (I suppose going with initials might have worked…)
3) Don’t even think about skimping on the editing. As an ex-ghostwriter/editor, I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to open Amazon’s “look inside” feature and find clear errors, often in the first few paragraphs.
I know you’re an artist, but even artists need editors. And, with the paperback, anyway, you only get one chance to get it right. So… grab it! (This part I did get right, but I come from a family full of editors, so I was never going to mess this one up. Would never have heard the end of!)
4) Make sure your cover doesn’t only scream professional but also nails your genre. My publisher Unbound got this only partly right with Last Star Standing.
It’s an artistic cover, but the font should be ballsier for the content, the author name doesn’t show up enough in Amazon ads and SOMEWHERE there should be a figure of Aiden, probably in silhouette against a doom-laden expanse.
And yes, I know it’s boring: EVERY action/sci-fi/thriller has the silhouette of a hero against (yawn) an apocalyptic sky… Pathetic, isn’t it, the lack of imagination?)
Umm no, it actually isn’t. Because everybody’s busy – your readers are mega-busy – and these identikit covers are like a massive BUY ME signal to people who really love action/scifi/thrillers. Something brilliant-but-different might well look sensational, but it’ll still lack that silent BUY ME signal, and – believe me – you WANT that on your book.
So, swipe yourself a genre-friendly cover and a great editor, nix the pen name and go for it!!!!!
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Alice (Spaulding Taylor) McVeigh has been published by Orion/Hachette in contemporary fiction, by Unbound Publishing in action/adventure and by Warleigh Hall Press in Austenesque fiction. Her novels have won Gold Medal/First Place is the Global, eLit and Pencraft Book Awards, been runner-up in the Independent Press Awards, finalists in the Eric Hoffer, Rone and Wishing Shelf Book Awards and selected by Shelf Unbound as one of the “top indies” of 2021. Two of her novels are currently finalists in the CIBA Book Awards (the Cygnus and Goethe Awards). Her most recent novel (Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation) was just selected as Editors’ Pick “outstanding” on Publishers Weekly.
A professional London cellist, Alice lives in London and Crete with her professor husband: their only child is completing her Masters in Chinese Literature. They also share two miniature long-haired dachshunds and an incurable addiction to tennis.
Facebook: (me) https://www.facebook.com/alice.mcveigh.5/
(author me) https://www.facebook.com/alicemcveighauthor
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Mcveigh/e/B07TDKZPVT/ref=aufs_dp_fta_dsk OR
Video for Last Star Standing:
Sales link: Book will be on sale for $0.99 during the tour.
One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.