Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - More Random Photos #StarWars #RogueOne #SWCE

 To save you from an entire summer of teasers (and mostly because I've run out of new stuff from new things and already shared loads from old), here's a few more random images from the Star Wars Celebration that don't really fit into a single topic, starting with film accurate replicas from the prop store. Enjoy!










Artwork from the artists quarter
Boushh costume from Return of the Jedi
Carrie Fisher on the live stream screen during her panel


The Droid Workshop - a club who specialize in building droids, especially astro-droids.











Not quite life sized but impressive nonetheless










video
Next week there'll be some video excerpts from the Rogue One panel that I forgot to post before, including a fun story from Alan Tudyk on him meeting Anthony Daniels

Monday, August 29, 2016

Biggest Discovery of the Century: What Does it Mean?

Some HUGE news that broke last week. Scientists have discovered what may be an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone orbiting the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, a small red dwarf sun about 4.25 light years away.

Promptly named Proxima b, the planet is only about 1.3 times the size of Earth and appears to have conditions that may allow it to have liquid water. That's exciting! So now it seems not only are there potential New Earths out there, but one may be practically on our doorstep.

We've gone from "are there even other planets beyond our solar system?" to "we've found a planet or two!" to "we've found thousands" to "we've found an Earth-like planet orbiting the nearest star!" in a very short time on the scientific time scale. That totally gives me goosebumps!

But what does it really mean that we've found a potentially habitable planet that's very close to Earth?

First of all, define "very close." Proxima Centauri is only a little over four light years away, but that, as the name implies, means we'd have to travel over four years at the speed of light to reach it. We can't even begin to approximate light speed, so how long would it take to get there with our current propulsion systems?

First, a reality check. Remember it took the Voyager craft about 40 years just to reach to edge of our own solar system.  That's like taking 40 years just to reach the door of our house, and still having to travel a mile down the road to the nearest neighbor.

So, if by "current propulsion systems" we're talking about the speed of the New Horizons probe that reached Pluto, we're talking around 54,400 years to reach Proxima b. (And New Horizons was relatively quick. The space shuttle would take about 165,000 years!)

We might be able to "soup up the engines" and cut that timeline down in the next few decades with dynamic new types of drives, but even reducing the transit time by 75% is still 13,600 years. That goes so far beyond the concept of "generation ship" that it's laughable. We're talking about sending people on a journey for 540 generations!

Even reducing the trip to 13,600 is still a span of time greater than all of recorded human history on Earth. And living in the weightless environment of space, by the time the five-hundred-fortieth generation reached Proxima b the chances are the passengers may have lost the ability to even tolerate the gravity of the planet.

So what does this discovery really mean? I think it suggests two major things.

1) If we're ever going to get there, we need to start developing some form of propulsion that can get us there at least 10 times slower than the speed of light, or in about 54 years. Propulsion that can approximate half light speed, or about eleven years travel time, would be much more ideal. And, of course, if we can develop a viable way to "fold" space (ala Dune) or a hyperdrive system (ala Star Wars) or warp speed (ala Star Trek) or flashpoint (ala my upcoming Pets in Space story...teehee) that would defy "normal space" and allow us to arrive in a few hours or days, that's the ideal scenario.

2) We need to develop a reliable form of artificial gravity. The toll of weightlessness on a human who has spent less than a year in space is so dramatic, I can't envision astronauts traveling or orbitting in space for any significant amount of time and not developing major health issues. Muscle atrophy, loss of bone mass, circulation problems, eye problems, the list is long and debilitating. The gravity conditions that our species evolved in must be recreated in order for such a mission to succeed.

Though it's true initiatives like Starshot involving laser beams pushing nanoships that, if successfully developed, could reach Proxima b in about 20 years, that's not getting us into the colony business. As Larry Niven, author of Ringworld, once said, "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program. And if we go extinct because we don't have a space program, it'll serve us right!"

Now that we know space may be teaming with other Earth-like planets, we need to focus on the means that will realistically allow us to go there. Unless, of course, we prefer to sit back and continue our armchair space exploration until our time on this world runs out.

Read more here:
Gizmodo: New Earth-like Exoplanet Could be Discovery of the Century
Gizmodo: There May be an Earth-Like Exoplanet Less Than Five Light Years Away
Space: How we could Visit the Possibly Earth-like Planet Proxima b

 
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MY NEWS

This past week, I was informed that my SFR novel, Inherit the Stars, is a finalist for the 2016 Aspen Gold Award.

I won't find out the results until later this year, but I have all my fingers and toes crossed for a second award for my novel.

Meanwhile, they sent me this way cool graphic to share.

So purdy!


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PETS IN SPACE ANTHOLOGY UPDATE




It's only a little over six weeks until the debut of the Pets in Space Anthology on October 11 with pre-orders becoming available in only about four-and-a-half weeks!

Our exciting new SFR anthology is getting ready to roll out toward the launch pad!

Meanwhile, I'm starting to think about swag and I could use your input. What type of swag or prizes do you love to get? Custom mugs? Tshirts? Notepads? Bookmarks? Mousepads?

How about some of the more unusual offerings? Postage stamps? Stress reliever/hand exercisers? Hand fans?

Have any unique swag ideas to suggest?

I'm all ears. Please post in comments below. I'll share your ideas or requests with the other Pets in Space Anthology authors.

If you missed the news about the meet-and-greet with our cover model, Vikkas Bhardwaj, you can read about it in my last blog (with photo!) here. Just scroll down to the Pets in Space Anthology Update.

Take it from a sci-fi icon at the Star Wars Celebration:
Have a great week!

Laurie

Friday, August 26, 2016

TWENTY LITTLE WORDS THAT MEAN THE WORLD TO A WRITER



So let’s talk about something we all want, but we’re not supposed to ask for. Something that for a writer is like water to a man dying of thirst in the desert, food to a woman begging on a street corner in Bangladesh.

Reviews.

When I was a na├»ve unpublished writer, I never imagined it would be difficult to get people to tell me what they thought of my books. After all, the agents and publishers sending me all those rejections were more than happy to tell me what they didn’t like about the premise in my blurbs or the opening chapters. Contest judges were free with their advice about the good and the bad points of my writing. Opinions were everywhere.

But now that I’m in the business of selling books, I find getting readers to share their opinions publicly is like pulling teeth. An informal poll of my friends who are readers indicates many of them are intimidated by the process (which couldn’t be easier—really) or they see it as a chore, like a book report from school. They seem to think it takes all the fun out of reading the book if you have to rate it afterwards. They whine if you ask them to help you out by writing 20 little words in a review. And Lord knows you can’t pay them! (NOTE TO ALL GOVERNING BODIES: Humor intended.)

PLEASE! Just one little review! I'm begging you!

It's even more complicated within the community of writers who are also readers. Amazon has obscure rules about authors reviewing authors. It’s not entirely clear whether you can or not, or whether you can get away with it or not under certain circumstances (like reviewing under aliases). The SFR community is particularly hampered by these rules because we have a disproportionate number of writers to readers (eg. many, if not most, of our readers are also writers).

There are plenty of blogs and folks who just like to review books for the fun of it. God bless them! I’ve requested reviews from them for my book launches, almost always with great success. The problem is requesting those reviews is cumbersome and time-consuming, requiring an individual email to each one, and scheduling, and back-and-forth. It’s nearly as difficult as the old querying process. And with the sheer volume of new books coming out these days, reviewers are overwhelmed. Wait times for reviews are now routinely four to six months.

Then there are the review services, like NetGalley. Ask any ten people about those services and you’ll get ten different opinions about whether you should use them, ranging from, “They’re great!” to “They’ll destroy your book forever!” I’ve never been brave enough to try, though lately I’ve come to believe that even bad reviews are better than no reviews.

And here’s why: Amazon has sales algorithms that are based on the number of reviews a book has garnered. At various levels, those algorithms kick in, triggering attention for the book in Amazon’s daily features, "you might like" recommendations, etc. So at ten reviews, you get a little notice, at 20 some more, at 50 quite a bit, at 100, wow! And so on. The algorithms are all computer-based—no one is reading the reviews to see whether they’re good or bad, though they are tracking the star ratings.

So let’s say you have five reviews and all of them are five stars. Great, you say! Not so great—Amazon will ignore you. But if you have 50 reviews that average out to 3.5 stars, Amazon will treat you like a wunderkind. Part of that is due, of course, to the fact that you sold enough books to get 50 reviews. But part of it is due to the stupid computer. (If you’ve ever questioned why so many books you think are not so wonderful are selling like hotcakes, this is part of the problem.)

Ah, but not all reviews are welcome, you say. What about trolls? And, yes, the trolls are out there. Not sure there is anything to be done about them except to develop a thick skin and never, ever respond.

I’ve done a little research, I’ve made some observations, but I have no real solution for the problem of what to do about the need for reviews. Suggestions, anyone? Because this book-selling business is tough going, and nothing eases the way more than a good review.

Cheers,
Donna





Thursday, August 25, 2016

Another day, another cover

I used to think I wasn't too bad at graphic design - until I had a few covers made by people who know what they're doing. Really, it's so very important to have an eye-catching cover. So I had my favourite cover designer, Rebecca Poole, take a look at the covers for Morgan's Choice and Morgan's Return.

Here are the old ones (done by me) as comparison.



We were both very happy with the (inevitable) spaceships I'd used in the previous versions, but I wanted to see if we could get the people element into the visual. Rebecca and I tossed around some ideas, and finally decided on a "his" and "hers" approach. Then it was all down to the cover models. And once again we were reminded how hard it is to get the right kind of cover model. Ravindra is dark-skinned, but of Indian appearance, not African. There are a few around, but long hair and unshaven would not go with the image (sorry Vikkas), and I didn't want anybody too young. So the man in the cover is a compromise. He's not as dark as I'd like, but I really like the pose, Ravindra looking for answers to difficult questions. And of course I LOVE that ship.




Then we moved on to Morgan. I knew she looked like those very beautiful women of mixed race that you see in South America, but with strange, chrome eyes. We found a stunning model, Bex fixed the eyes, added an incredible space scene with weird alien ships - and we were done.


I'd never really realized how important fonts are. Believe me, the detail makes all the difference. And you don't HAVE to have the titles in the middle of the space. Who knew?

I think these covers are absolutely stunning, and they fit the stories really, really well. Bex is an absolute pleasure to work with. Take a look at her site.

Oh, and if you want to know more about Morgan's Choice and Morgan's Return, you'll find the series page here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cover Reveal! SALVATION by Lea Kirk

Spacefreighters Lounge is very proud to host this cover reveal for an exciting upcoming Science Fiction Romance novel, Salvation (Book Two of the Prophecy Series) by Lea Kirk.




Salvation

Book Two of the Prophecy Series

A blessing and a curse…

Seven years ago, a single moment changed the course of Nicholaus Bock’s life forever—the moment his preternatural Gift to heal awakened in him. A gift that made him an invaluable commodity to the known galaxy. Now his mentor’s intriguing and secretive new student goes out of her way to challenge his loyalty to everything he values.

A dark secret…

After facing death and destruction during the Anferthian invasion, Sakura Yamata revels in her new-found Gift to heal. Helping Earth’s survivors keeps her mind off the loss of her family, and the memory of the terrible choices she made. Nick could penetrate her defenses and discover what she’s hiding. She must not let the handsome healer close enough for that to happen.

A race facing annihilation…

When a mysterious disease strikes the hidden sanctuary of the Anferthian dissenters, Nick and Sakura are called in to help. But someone is going to great lengths to ensure the dissenters don’t survive. Nick and Sakura must set aside their differences and work together to save them before the fragile peace between three worlds is shattered.
 

Coming October 18, 2016

Available for pre-order now
 

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Author Bio

Lea Kirk loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her science fiction romances. Her fascination with science fiction began at six years old when her dad introduced her to the original Star Trek TV series. She fell in love with the show, and was even known to run through her parents’ house wearing the tunic top of her red knit pantsuit and her white go-go boots pretending to be Lieutenant Uhura.

In January of 2016, she published her well-received debut novel, Prophecy, Book One of the Prophecy Series. She followed that up in April with a short story, All of Me, set in the Prophecy Series universe. Another short story, Space Ranger, will be released October 11, 2016 as part of the Pets in Space Anthology. Salvation, her second full-length novel comes out a week later. The third book in her series, Collision, is scheduled for 2017.

Ms. Kirk lives in Northern California with her wonderful hubby of twenty-six years, their five kids (aka, the nerd herd), and a whole slew of characters just itching to have their stories told!
 
Links:

Other books by Lea Kirk

Prophecy, Book One of the Prophecy Series
All of Me, A Prophecy Series Short Story

Coming Soon:
Space Ranger, A Prophecy Series Short Story
(Part of the Pets in Space Anthology)
Release date: October 11, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Teaser: Running Scared #amwriting #scifi #romance

Week five of my summer break, and this time I have a little advanced snippet from Keir's Shadow: Book Three of Redemption. This is unedited as yet - well, as in not been through my editor although I've done a major rewrite since the original version is nearly four years old now. I'm not going to tell you who is in this snippet - gotta save some surprises for book three...
Her breath came in desperate ragged gasps as she fought for each one, her lungs burning and every muscle in her body screaming a protest. In perfect synchronization, her heart beat a frantic rhythm within her chest, so hard and so fast she thought it might explode any moment. The noise of it filled her head and swallowed all thought, all sense as she ran, snared within a long, dark passageway with no turns aside and no hiding places. In contrast, her feet were almost soundless on the smooth floor. Even in her panic, she ran lightly on footwear designed especially for stealth. Shame it wouldn’t save her neck now.
At last she turned a corner and flung herself back against the wall, pressing her lithe body as close to the surface as nature would permit. She turned her head to watch for something following, catching her breath as she held herself ready. The chill of the surface behind her came as welcome relief. Her one-piece, skin tight combat suit was supposed to dispel perspiration quicker to help keep her cool, but right now all it did was cling to her like wet seaweed wrapped around her. Likewise tendrils of her long red hair, darkened and dampened by sweat, stuck to her skin. At least her vision was clear. Thin goggles covered her eyes with an iridescent lenses for night-vision, and  the ornate earpiece she wore to augment her hearing hadn’t slipped free. She held her breath, listening hard, but there was no sound of pursuit. Yet.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

When Power Outages Strike

A lengthy power outage yesterday threw a wrench in the reactors for my plans to research and write a topical blog post, but I have several authorly and not-so updates to report that should be fun. 

On the Writing Front


I'm moving ahead with novel two--The Outer Planets--though after coming back from my editor, it's in for some pretty heavy revisions that will alter some of the story line and character arcs, shorten the mission timeline and drop one of the four POVs completely.

The good news is this will (hopefully) trim it down by some 10,000 words (it's currently over 120,000) so it will be closer in length to Inherit the Stars.


On the Personal Front

We had a very exciting Wednesday night when one of the two-year-old Thoroughbred colts we bred and raised--Blazing Away ("Zinger")--had his first start at Albuquerque Downs.

Blazing Away - First Race, Albuquerque Downs
We're very proud of "our boy" (we no longer own him, but he's still our kid) who was a perfect gentleman in the saddling paddock as many of the other youngsters were rearing, bucking, kicking and generally creating chaos.

Two year olds tend to throw temper tantrums just like kids, and this was the first time many of these young horses were being saddled for an official race in front of a large audience, so yes...

Crowd + commotion + announcer = freak out!

For his first race, we had two big wishes--that Zinger get through the race safely and that we get lots of great pictures. Big score on both counts. Zinger was off to a slow start, but made an impressive move on the back stretch and ended up running third, which earned him a nifty little pay check for his first race, and the "show" spot on the tote board.

Yesterday, he ran a bullet workout (fastest time of the day for that distance) so we know he recovered from the race without injury and hope to have many more happy updates in the future.

Funny story. Before we had filled out Zinger's application along with our three preferred name choices, we had jokingly dubbed him New Mexico Chrome, after Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome. Though he doesn't have quite as much "chrome" (slang for a lot of white markings) as the champ from California, he does have his fair share of flashy white. 



PETS IN SPACE ANTHOLOGY UPDATE

There's so much happening with this fun new SFR/pets anthology that I'm going to do weekly updates going forward.

These updates may include fun swag, giveaways and other perks, so check back often!

Pets in Space is now on Goodreads!
Yes, the Pets in Space Anthology is now on Goodreads! Click the link above to take a peek.

Please add it to your Favorites, To Read List, and your other custom lists.

Thanks so much for your support!

Guest Post on Whiskey With My Book Reviews

Last Monday, I was featured in a guest post on Riley Moreland's Whiskey With My Book Reviews site, and brought along my two little writing buddy/inspirations. To check out the cool spotlight photo of Katrina and Luna--my mini longhaired dachshunds--just click the name of the site above.

Cover Model Meet and Greet!

Two of our anthology authors--Lea Kirk and Susan Grant--had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the cover model of the Pets in Space Anthology on Saturday, August 13th--the day the news broke about the project--at the San Francisco Area RWA chapter meeting.

Lea posted about the event on Facebook and Susan put the pedal to the medal on her 747 to arrive in time. She's not only a best-selling author, she's an airline pilot to boot!

Here's a great photo of Lea Kirk (left), and Susan Grant (right) with the wonderful and personable Vikkas Bhardwaj and the Pets in Space Anthology cover I'm sure you've seen his face on many, many book covers--including the Sing a Song of the Stars SFR book bundle (unfortunately, no longer available) that included Farewell Andromeda. We're so proud that Vikkas is the face of Pets in Space. (Click on his name above to see some of his terrific images on VikkasZone.)

And I'm especially proud that Vikkas kinda sorta resembles my Tectolian star navigator hero, Taro Shall. The residents of Tectol, who have a penchant for navigating the cosmos, are primarily descended from the peoples from the South Pacific islands of "original Earth." Taro's even wearing a white shirt in one scene!

By the way, I have it on good authority that Vikkas received a special request to do more science fiction romance style photo shoots. Can't wait to feast my eyes on those! It's sooo hard to find good cover images in appropriate star voyager attire and with props that translate well to SFR covers. I really hope to see something along those lines in the near future!

If you want updates on the important upcoming news on the Pets in Space Anthology and my other work, please subscribe to my Escape to the Stars Newsletter (see link below). It comes with a sincere promise not to spam your email inbox with constant emails, just quarterly updates and special announcements. (And rest assured I will never sell your email address! Hate it when that happens to me.)

 
 
Instant Replays
 
In case you missed Greta's thoughtful post and terrific follow-on discussion, take a look here:
 
And Donna had a fun and light-hearted post on Friday about booze in spaaaaaaaaace:
 
Have a great week!
 
Laurie
 
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