Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for The Widening Gyre (The Remembrance War #1) by Michael R. Johnston.
My thanks to Anne Cater for the tour invite, Flame Tree Press and Michael R. Johnston.
The Widening Gyre (The Remembrance War #1).
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: FLAME TREE PRESS; New edition edition (14 Mar. 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1787581446
- ISBN-13: 978-1787581449
- Amazon UK
Eight hundred years ago, the Zhen Empire discovered a broken human colony ship drifting in the fringes of their space. The Zhen gave the humans a place to live and folded them into their Empire as a client state. But it hasn’t been easy. Not all Zhen were eager to welcome another species into their Empire, and humans have faced persecution. For hundreds of years, human languages and history were outlawed subjects, as the Zhen tried to mold humans into their image. Earth and the cultures it nourished for millennia are forgotten, little more than legends.
One of the first humans to be allowed to serve in the Zhen military, Tajen Hunt became a war hero at the Battle of Elkari, the only human to be named an official Hero of the Empire. He was given command of a task force, and sent to do the Empire’s bidding in their war with the enigmatic Tabrans. But when he failed in a crucial mission, causing the deaths of millions of people, he resigned in disgrace and faded into life on the fringes as a lone independent pilot.
When Tajen discovers his brother, Daav, has been killed by agents of the Empire, he, his niece, and their newly-hired crew set out to finish his brother’s quest: to find Earth, the legendary homeworld of humanity. What they discover will shatter 800 years of peace in the Empire, and start a war that could be the end of the human race.
Guest Post by Michael R. Johnston: Ten Things You Don’t Know About Me.
When I was a young reader, before the days of the Internet, I hated not knowing anything about my favorite authors. I liked knowing little things about them, things that made them seem more human.
In that spirit, here are ten things about me—some sad, some funny, and some just odd—that might help you to know me as a person, and not just a name on a book cover.
1. I Have Three Sets of Parents.
No, really. I was born in 1971 to Robert and Deborah Johnston. My mom died in 1977. My father was in prison at the time, and signed away his rights, so I was adopted by family friends. My adopted mom died in 1989, my biological father died in 1993, and my adopted dad in 1996. Before his death, he suffered a severe stroke, and I was taken in by my bio-mother’s sister. When I mention “parents,” context is king: I could be talking about any of these six people. My friends have gotten very good at figuring out which ones I mean in a given statement, but even they sometimes ask. The important key is, if I mention living parents, I mean my aunt and uncle.
There’s more to it than that—one old friend described me as one “’long lost wealthy relative who left you everything’ away from a Dickens novel”—but that’s a much longer post!
2. I’m Terrifed—of Bees.
When I was a kid, I was climbing a tree and accidentally disturbed a hornet nest. Ever since, I’ve been terrified of bees and wasps—and, really, any flying, stinging insect. Japanese Hornets are horrifying. I’ve been working on it for years, and I don’t freeze up anymore, but I get very quiet and try to get away from the little shits.
The hell of it is, I’m also fascinated by honeybees, so there’s a whole push-pull thing going on when I’m around a hive.
3. I Collect Spaceships.
Even at 47, I have a love of well-designed fictional spaceships. I collect ships from Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and various movies and anime. I’ve been known to wax poetic about the lines of the White Star, and rant about the unbalanced lines of the Enterprise-D.
My collection was nearly wiped out about twelve years ago when my house caught fire, and most of the ships, which lived on my desk, and shelves next to the desk, were melted, including a vintage Battlestar Galactica Viper I first put together when I was in middle school. A moment of silence, please.
4. I am an Unabashed Anglophile—but Scotland is even better.
Ever since I was a little kid, the United Kingdom has been a place I was completely enamored with. I love British literature, British TV, cinema, and even British foods. I get Worcestershire Potato Crisps (Chips to us Americans) and Lemonade Fizzballs candy imported regularly, and I drive considerably out of my way to shop at a British Import Food shop as often as possible. I pay attention to British politics and local news even though it has nothing to do with my life most of the time, just because I am fascinated by it. I would happily move to a small English village.
But my love of England is eclipsed by my love of All Things Scottish. My paternal direct ancestors are from Scotland, and even though they’ve been here since before the revolution, Scotland’s culture, landscape, and music have always been among my favorite things. I finally got to visit in 2015, after years of dreaming, and fortunately, my love was confirmed. I would move to Scotland in a heartbeat if I could, even the places with snow. I used to dream of buying a small island in the River Tey.
My love of Scotland extends to a love of Scotch—not just “whisky” but actual Scotch. Single-malt, neat, and make it a double. I’m most partial to a speyside, with Balvenie being my favorite, but there are others I love as well, among them Glengoyne, Dalwhinnie, and among the Irish whiskies, Writer’s Tears. I hated Scotch until I was into my 40s and decided to try it again, and I fell in love. I’m not a fan of peaty whisky, I am sorry to say, and most blended whiskies are not for me. But I’m always up for trying something new.
5. I am a (terrible) Celtic musician.
I play celtic fiddle, but because I don’t practice enough, I play it very badly. I own a bodhran (celtic drum) as well, and love to play it, but I’m even worse on it than I am the fiddle. As bad as I am, though, I love the bone-deep thrum and beat of the drum, and the fiddle is amazing when I play well. I know I should practice more, but something’s gotta give, and between music and writing… well, it’s music for now.
6. I’ve had some weird jobs.
I’ve been a process-server (serving subpoenas and divorce papers), a data processing manager (think Chandler from Friends, including the sarcasm but without the suits or the high pay), a sandwich maker, a fast-food manager, and of course a high school teacher, which I still do. But my oddest odd-“job” was before I was even out of elementary school: I helped plant what later became an award-winning winery’s vineyard. Sadly, the winery is now out of business, but I was quite proud of them for a long time. I was paid, by the way, in food and pool-side fun at the end of each day.
7. I like Baking.
There’s a scene in The Widening Gyre in which one character teaches another how to knead bread, and comments on how it’s therapeutic. This comes from my own life—I love making bread, from the mixing to the kneading, shaping, and best of all, the eating. I have a few specialties I’m really good at, but I’m usually working on expanding my repertoire. I’ve taken a break because I have to avoid carbs for a time, but I look forward to saying hello to bread again down the road.
In addition to breads, I like to make cakes. From her 2nd birthday until her 10th, I made and decorated the cakes for all of my daughter’s birthdays. I’m an amateur at best, and at least two of my friends are far, far better at it than I am, but it’s not about perfection, for me. It’s just something I like to do from time to time.
And yes, I love the British Baking Show.
8. I am an RPG player and GM.
You name it, I’ve played it. Well, not really. But I’ve been playing RPGs since 6th grade, when I started playing Dungeons & Dragons with one of the kids in my class on rainy days. I then didn’t play anything until high school, when my friends and I started playing everything from D&D to FASA’s Star Trek game. Since then I’ve branched out, and both played and run many games in various systems. My favorite games to run are, I’m sure you’ll be just shocked to discover, Space Opera games, but I also love Super Hero games, High Fantasy, and Cyberpunk games.
9. I like my food spicy.
My signature dish is “Southwestern Chili with Cactus.” Depending on some variables, most in my control, it’s either “Kinda spicy” or “HOLY SHIT WHAT DID I DO TO MY MOUTH I MAY DIE!?” I prefer it closer to the latter. Sadly, my family does not, though they like it in the middle of the spectrum.
I recently had a “three-alarm burger” and was warned by the waitress it was “super hot,” complete with questioning if I was sure I wanted it. I insisted I did.
It was not spicy. Not even close. But I could tell they thought it was. Those sad, sad people.
10. I am “Sarcastic AF.”
This is probably not something you’re unaware of by now, but basically, sarcasm is my anti-drug. My students know it and cherish it; if I give a non-sarcastic answer to a silly question, they wonder if I’m okay.
About Michael R. Johnston.
Born in the San Francisco bay area and raised in Napa, California, Michael R. Johnston grew up steeped in everything Science Fiction and Fantasy from Asimov to Zelazny, as well as endless terrible SF TV shows he still has a slightly embarrassed fondness for.
Faced with the choice between moving back in with his parents and continuing school, or paying his rent, he took “a year” off from college. He spent time as a court process server, a retail sales associate, a sandwich maker, and a data entry tech, before finding himself in a management role. A decade later, burnt out from his job in political research and facing 30, he decided he’d had enough and returned to college, graduating with honors from California State University, Sacramento.
In fall 2006, he became a high school English teacher, a job he likens to herding a swarm of angry bees. It’s the best job he’s ever had.
In 2013, he attended the 17th Viable Paradise Science Fiction Writing Workshop. The experience of having his story critiqued by other writers, some of them professionals he’d been reading for years, helped him realize he could write professionally, and introduced him to some of his best friends.
He currently lives in Sacramento, California, with his wife and daughter. When he’s not writing or teaching, he spends time with his family, plays video games and tabletop RPGs (often with family), and reads.
About the publisher.
FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.
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