V. S. Holmes is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author. She created the epic fantasy REFORGED series and an archaeological sci-fi series the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. In addition, she runs Amphibian Press, dedicated to helping hybrid authors with publishing and has a blogging residency at Aspiring Authors focused on writing disability and mental illness.
When not writing, she is a contract archaeologist and, as a disabled, gender-queer person, an activist for equal rights and climate change.
Book title: Travelers
Publish date: 2/27/2016
Publisher: Amphibian Press
Archaeologist Nel Bently has her own crew, her own research, and a private patron to fund her passion for dirt. With her trowel barely into the dry earth of Chile’s coast, however, Nel learns she and her crew are being watched.
Los Pobladores, known to Nel only as vandals and looters, take issue with any archaeologist brave or stubborn enough to set boots on their land. Nel is both and far from willing to give up the site that will make her career. She must keep her crew, her friends, and her life’s work safe, but with a benefactor playing chess with their lives, and angry militants who may actually have a point, Nel is ready to fight dirty.
X-FILES meets LARA CROFT in this snarky sci-fi about where we came from, and where we’re going
Welcome to the Readers' Lounge, VS Holmes, I'm looking forward to hearing about your unique perspective on fantasy writing. Strap yourself in as this levitating lounge takes off.
VS Holmes: Thanks Kasper. Looking forward to it.
What makes your writing unique compared to others in the genre?
I focus on the broody, atmospheric aspects of mental illness and disability with my characters, which isn't often done in class fantasy and sci-fi. My characters go through a lot of introspection and dark moments!
It's great that you give a voice to folks with disabilities and make it relateable.
What’s the basic plot of your book or series?
My fantasy series (Reforged) explores what happens when the heroes are as broken as the world they must reforge, and my sci-fi series (The Nel Bently Books) is essentially lesbian archaeologists in space. The Nel books take place in the Starsedge universe, a contemporary/near future universe I share with Cameron J. Quinn--complete with crossover characters!
I'm a wicked sucker for reunion scenes. The more complex the relationship or reason for parting, the better. I think it's left over from reading copious amounts of Harry/Draco and Watson/Sherlock fan fiction a decade ago. There's a scene in Blood and Mercy, the final book in my fantasy series, when a brother and sister reunite after 20 years, throughout which he's been searching for her, and she's been avoiding being found. It's awkward and disappointing and touching all at once and I love it.
Aw..that sounds sweet, maybe bitter-sweet.
Have you used any real events or places as inspiration for your writing?
In my sci-fi I've drawn a lot from my day job as an archaeologist, not just locations, projects, and science, but the folk legends we all have, and the ridiculous stories we tell.
Archaeology sounds like such an interesting career.
What are you working on now?
I'm currently drafting Blood and Mercy, which is the final book in my fantasy series (eek!) and mentioned above, and Heretics, the fourth Nel Bently Book. I’m also developing the first season of an email/audio serial set in the same universe as the Nel Bently Books.
What’s your writing routine?
I'm a morning person. Well, I'm not a sleep person, really. I get up between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning and if I'm in the field I'll write until about 10 minutes before we roll out. If it's the off season or a weekend, though I'll write until about 10, visit my parents who live next door for a bit, then continue writing for the afternoon, with a break to take the dog for a walk.
How did you go about developing your cover artwork?
I made the covers for the Nel Bently and my other novels in the Starsedge universe myself. I use Krita and stock photos, as well as custom photoshoots for the figures. My fantasy books are commisioned pieces of art (the Reforged art is by Ben Donahue and Awakened is by Aaron Bolduc). The layout and designs I did myself.
Oh wow, that is so cool. It must be so rewarding to see your visions come to fruition.
If you could only take three books with you through an interstellar portal, what would they
One would be blank, of course. The next would be Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and the third would be Cosmos by Carl Sagan.
Awesome! I think you're the first person to answer with a blank book for writing.
Do you have a blog?
I don't have a personal blog, but I do have a blogging residency at Aspiring Authors Blog, where I share a monthly article concerning disability in SFF worlds.
What’s your dream job and do you think you’ll do it one day?
I'm lucky--I'm already doing both my dream jobs. Archaeology and writing are my passions, and not too different from one another--both are the search for a story and truth.
Where do you like to travel to?
ANYWHERE. I get to travel around the states for work, but I've also dug in Greece. I like to get off the beaten path to really get to know a place and its culture. I'm also a huge fan of stark landscapes. I just returned from the Iceland Writers Retreat and it was incredible there!
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? Plotter once I have the first scene
Do you prefer to read SciFi or fantasy: I enjoy reading fantasy more and writing sci-fi more.
Best superpower: Healing or Flight.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Run a writers’ retreat!
Thanks VS. It has been good fun learning about you and your work. We have the links here as well as a sample of VS's writing below.
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Youtube book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Shk0IbaSQU&t=10s
V. S. Holmes
Award-winning Sci-fi and Fantasy Author
Excerpt from Travelers:
Vandalism across a perfect site was the best recipe for an archaeologist’s worst day. Apparently, it wasn’t enough that Nel Bently’s visa had met with "authenticity issues" twice on her way into Chile. She ducked under the rope that had served as a barrier. A poor one, she mentally snarled. The site was a disaster. Great gouges carved the formerly pristine soil. The tools stacked under a tarp by the bushes were now scattered, bent and broken. What pits her crew had dug the week before were filled with rotting leaves and back dirt, the perfect, square walls of the trenches ruined and crushed in.
Nel stepped carefully through the mess. This has Founders written all over it. As a rule, Nel was a patron of locals and the people she studied. Coming onto culturally significant land, not matter how old the site, was always tricky and she respected that. The Founders were her exception. They took issue with any archaeologist that set boots near their land, despite admitting there was no spiritual or cultural significance to the sites Nel chose.
"Well, fuck." Her tanned hand raked sweat and sunscreen through her sandy hair. She had permits and this was blatant vandalism. She turned back to her colleague and the two grad students who had arrived early to help. They waited, uncertain, at the rope, tools and packs still held with earnest dedication. "Alright, Mikey, grab pictures of this mess. You two, packs and tools go there, and set up a tent over them. Once Mikey has his pictures, clean it up. Wear gloves, it's gross and smells like a sewer."
She watched as they moved to do her bidding, eyes wide as they got their first good look at the vandalism. "If you need anything, talk to Mikey. I'll be on the phone." She trudged up the rise, dry soil crunching under her battered boots as she tugged the satellite phone from its case in her pack. She dialed, listening to the clicks as the call connected and surveying the land below her. It was perfect, really. The site was nestled between a stream and the rise she stood on now. The water had carved deep enough to have been there when it was inhabited, but small enough to be on only the local maps. The rise, curving from the north to the west, was covered with artifacts. It was the first place they surveyed, and it provided natural protection from the wind that whipped off the Pacific, just a few hundred feet away.
"You've reached the machine of Dr. Martin de Santos. Leave your name and number and how I can help you, and I'll return your call at the earliest convenience."
"Martos, it's Nel. Site was vandalized, looks like Founders. We could use some extra help -- I don't know if my greens can handle this. Give my cell a call tonight, I'll be in town." As she hung up, she caught site of the rotted mess Mikey was about to shovel out. It was a rough shape of a symbol. “Oi! Mikey wait!" She snapped a few pictures with her handheld, before waving for him to continue and stamping down the rise. She had been unable to see it from the ground. It was the angled symbol with which the Founders signed their papers, websites and protests. As she watched the clean up, she noted two figures on the rise across the stream. Both wore telltale woven bands around their forearms. A cold mix of dread and defiance crawled down her spine. It wasn’t like them to watch. I'll be damned if I'm going to be cowed by radicals. "C'mon," she called to the students, brown eyes fixed on the figures above. "I wanna see you moving dirt by ten!"
She returned to the site and sat on a rock, flipping through her field book. She had been digging since she was an undergrad. She had started with a history major, then steadily worked backwards in the time line, learning about anthropology, prehistorics, and paleolithics. She fell in love with her first dig. Now, with her doctorate defended, she had her own crew, her own research. Not to mention funding from a generous private patron to continue her passion for sweat, dirt, and work that made her body ache. She was staring at the page where she had sketched the site last summer when Mikey sauntered over.
He was a blocky man -- square head, square hands, square shoulders -- with only a slight paunch to round out the edges. "Sucks, eh? Think it was the Flounders?"
Nel smiled at his nickname for their adversaries. "More than likely. I tried to keep this site under wraps, but when you've grown up here, I think nothing escapes notice. They were watching us clean up this morning. Creeps me out a bit."
Mikey glanced at her, a frown crinkling his sun-weathered skin. Mikey was the resident prehistoric ceremonial specialist from their department, but more than that he was her best friend. "Everything OK?”
She shrugged. "I don't know." Her gaze was fixed on stain from rotted debris.
He rose with a groan. "I bet you a beer you pick up a shovel before tomorrow's over."
It was an old tradition. Nel could not keep her hands out the dirt, and even as site supervisor, she often found herself in a pit before long. She laughed. "
... the story continues in Travelers
VS came in for an interview on the Fantasy / Sci-Fi Readers' Lounge
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