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Off To The Races

By On Aug 27 2014, 9:00 am

He’s racing for a prize…

It started with Ben-Hur, because I could watch that chariot race over and over. The moment when the horses leap the wreckage and just keep going is lovely.

I’ve always liked stories about races, whether those are between cars (Cars), horses (Seabiscuit) or early planes (Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines). Provided we care who wins, a race is inherently suspenseful.

Plus, it’s a test of skills. Skills, it has to be said, that I lack across the board. For some reason, I have never won even a game of musical chairs, so I love vicariously participating in spectacular trials of speed—and winning them, of course.

She’s running for her life…

Last year I spent most of a weekend watching films like The Caine Mutiny and Das Boot, which made me think about a race across the ocean. Sailing—or traveling underwater, for that matter—can be so dangerous in and of itself, just arriving alive at your destination is often enough to ask for. Weather, pirates, water supplies—all these make an ocean race more of a survival marathon.

Then I read about the built-for-speed ships called clippers. With their small size and extra sails, these ships made great smugglers and blockade runners. They also played a role in the opium and tea trade, and I couldn’t get through the day without tea.  But by the 1870s, steamships started to edge them out.

That gave me an idea. What if the captain of a newly built steamship was ordered to compete in a race against well-known sailing ships, commanded by people with years’ more experience? The steamship captain would be under even more pressure to win, to demonstrate his ship’s newfangled technology as well as proving himself.

Of course, the captains of the sailing ships would pull out every trick in the book to beat the upstart to the finish line.

And they’re on a collision course…

That’s what happens to Captain Alyster Juell in my sharkpunk romance The Farthest Shore. He’s confident of winning the lucrative prize, but the first sign that things won’t go as he expects is a stowaway on board. Now it’s too late to send her ashore.

Miri Tayes was in a race too. She didn’t stow away on purpose—she ran from a man who tried to kill her when he discovered her secret. She’s always been trying to escape from that secret. But there’s no place to run on board a ship. The voyage will force her to confront her past, just as Alyster will get past her barriers. And for both of them, love could be the greatest prize of all…

The Farthest Shore

Editors' Corner

Common markups  by


Since becoming a Samhain editor, I’ve been asked to participate in interviews, present to local groups and speak at a regional convention. At each of these venues, I inevitably get asked some form of the following question: what are the mistakes I most commonly see in manuscripts? I’ve given it some thought, and came up [...]

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