Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Boldly Going Fourth... #amwriting

At the beginning of next week I celebrate two very important anniversaries within a day of each other. My 23rd wedding anniversary is on the 8th of May. I've now been married for more than half my lifetime, a very peculiar concept. It seems a long time to spend with one person, and yet it doesn't feel like any time at all. I still get a shock when I look in the mirror and the face looking back isn't the same one as in this wedding photo, lol. I can only hope that fate will allow us to spend another 23 years together.
It will also be my fourth anniversary as a published author. Here, the reverse feels true. It feels like I should know what the heck I'm doing having learned so much, and yet it's no time at all in the publishing industry, where it can still take a year for a book to be released after contract. But in that time I've released fourteen novels, novellas and short stories. I've had four publishers, and lost three. I've seen huge, huge shifts in the publishing industry, authors behaving badly, amazing success stories, and the darkest sides of publishing. It's been quite a rollercoaster!
A Science Fiction Romance Novel
Goodreads | 
Webpage 
Available from... 
Amazon | All Romance eBooks
Kobo | iTunes | B&N 

Smashwords

Print available from... 
Amazon | B&N | CreateSpace
The Book Depository
And while Keir and I share a fourth anniversary, May sees the first release in an exciting new collaboration between authors in the SFR Brigade - Project Portals! Four volumes of first chapters from a smorgasbord of science fiction romance, fronted by Sender Najan, our Master of the Portals! The exclusive cover reveal took place at The Galaxy Express 2.0 HERE, where you can find out more about the project and the cover art.





Chook Update
On Saturday, while roaming the garden, my chooks were attacked by a fox. The damn thing actually came INTO MY HOUSE to maul Effie and try to drag her off. Having heard the squawking, I ran into the back room, thinking the furry ginger back belonged to a braver than usual cat. No. The fox tried to run with Effie but I stomped on it and chased it down the garden screaming blue murder and set to throttle the beast.
Then just as I was about to run it from my territory, Spaghetti jumped out in front of it and got grabbed. I went for the fox again. Maybe it was me screaming, but it dropped Spaghetti too and ran for it.
By now my youngest had come into the garden - my special chicken wrangler. I picked up a stunned Spaghetti and put her in a nest box, then herded the others into their fenced run. Chiana had got herself trapped between the garden fence and the back of the run, but at least she was safe from the fox and I managed to retrieve her later. Effie had disappeared and my heart dropped to my shoes.
Then youngest found her hiding in some plants. I put her in the nest box too. Surprisingly, considering the mauling she got, Effie decided she didn't want to be fussed over and marched out to join the others in the run. Spaghetti was another matter. Eldest and I checked them both over for injuries (during which the fox returned TWICE and was chased off by my 11yo who I'd put on guard duty). The two chooks appeared unharmed, although Effie has lost a sizeable number of feathers. I think they saved her life. Spaghetti, although we couldn't see any injuries, went into deep shock. At the time of writing we have her in a box indoors, in the quiet and dark with food and water. It may be an injury in her throat we can't see or just shock. We have to wait and see.
The fox returned a third time and I chased it off. I can't believe the boldness of it coming into my house. The chooks are secure inside their run, but we now plan to build something bigger and stronger, since we can't safely let them wander the garden again unless we stay out with them. No fox is getting MY girls. This weekend has SUCKED.
ADDITIONAL: famous last words. Spaghetti recovered but sadly the fox returned and she was not so lucky a second time. We also lost Rush, and Kyru was mauled and in deep shock. We are debating rehoming our remaining girls as I can't take losing any more to that predator. I failed my girls.
Spaghetti
Effie

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Moon Guards Her Secrets: Introduction

Photo credit NASA
I'm going to be busy with edits and the writing of two new stories over the next month or two, so I'm declaring this Official Moon Month on Spacefreighters Lounge.

Over the next five weeks, I'm going to dish on some of the secrets of our very mysterious neighbor. Turns out she's quite a vixen, with a fascinating and tumultuous past...and present. Even being the closest heavenly body to Earth--and the only extraterrestrial entity we've ever set foot on as a species--there's still much we don't know.

Today and for the next four weeks, I'll be delving into some of the Moon's Earth-shaking facts and startling discoveries.

But, let's start with introductions.

Moon...meet the Spacefreighters patrons. (You want to give her a little wave. She's a bit nervous about being in the spotlight. She's used to being the spotlight.)

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The Moon Guards her Secrets
Part I: Introduction

The Moon. Wellspring of myths and legends. Symbol of romance and mystery. Earth's constant companion who can light our way in the black of night or turn a dark face to the world. As eerie and diabolical as our Moon can appear, its history--and its future--are the stuff of nightmares.

Our Moon is an unique conundrum. For one, it's huge, with the planet-to-moon ratio being the largest in our solar system by far. It creates the tides of our planet and stabilizes Earth's planetary tilt, which has had astounding consequences for life on Earth. Some believe the Moon can even affect the behavior of man and beast, and carries the power to transform legendary creatures.

There have been many stories, beliefs and misguided theories about the Moon over the long centuries.

Photo credit NASA
The Moon is made of green cheese.

There is a Man in the Moon.

The Moon turns people into lunatics.

A cow can jump over her.

The Moon triggers the shape-shifting of werewolves.

The surface of the Moon is covered in dust over 40 feet deep.

In July of 1969, a man first ventured onto her surface in "one small step," and that "giant leap for mankind" dispelled much of the misinformation, yet barely scratched the surface of the Moon's mystery and influence.



This "cold-hearted orb that rules the night" (credit Peter Knight, The Day Begins performed by The Moody Blues) has often been the subject of speculative science fiction literature and films, such as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, 1966, or First Men in the Moon, a 1964 film based on a book by H. G. Wells from 1901. Both are excellent, if extremely dated, stories.

Turns out, the Moon isn't the serene globe of dust and solitude we once believed it to be.

What we have learned is that the Moon is not at all friendly. In fact, it's toxic. The dust that covers the surface has sharp edges that affects equipment and smells like gunpowder but cuts like miniature razors. It can penetrate layers of tough Kevlar material on Moon boots and destroy the vital joints on pressurized suits. The electrostatically-charged particles cling to everything, including astronauts, and so can be unwittingly carried into craft after excursions on the lunar surface. If inhaled, the razor sharp edges can damage the lungs and can go directly into the bloodstream, affecting the cardiovascular system. It can also harm human skin and eyes. It may even cause cancer.

Accumulation of lunar dust--or regolith--on a Chinese rover is believed to be the cause of its failure in early 2014. The Yutu (or Jade Rabbit) rover carried ground-penetrating radar, with infrared and x-ray spectrometers on a robotic arm that were capable of measuring the chemical composition of the soil. This Moon dust may have created catastrophic friction for the rover's moving parts, as well as interfered with the effectiveness of the solar panels. Jade Rabbit is now dead, a permanent testament to the dangers that lurk on the lunar surface. The Moon is indeed a harsh mistress.

Photo credit NASA
But lunar dust doesn't pose the only threat to visitors. The Moon has no natural magnetic shield against cosmic radiation like that on Earth. The surface, and anyone on it, can be exposed to radiation and secondary particles that can penetrate spacesuits and skin. This will damage DNA and can later cause cancer. Why were none of the astronauts of Apollo missions affected? The answer is simple but frightening. Pure luck. Because the Apollo missions lasted only a few days, none of the astronauts were exposed to major radiation events.

Because the Moon has no protective atmosphere, she is constantly bombarded by meteors, averaging 100 a year, or an impact about once every three days.

In addition to these threats, the temperature on the surface of the Moon can vary by nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit between day and night, there is very low gravity (about 16.6% of Earth's), and the Moon has an almost non-existent, un-breathable atmosphere made up primarily of potassium and sodium.

Clearly, she presents a challenge to any efforts to colonize her.

Yet the Moon is a part of us. It has been in our history as long as we've had a history and embedded in our mythology, legends, music, daily life and popular culture. Its influence on our society and our lives is undeniable. In truth, the Moon's powers over us are deeper and darker than we may even understand.

For without the Moon, mankind might not exist at all.

Next week:
The Moon Guards her Secrets
Part II: Origins Unknown

Resources:
Photos Credits: NASA
UniverseToday.com; The Moon is Toxic
TheRegister.com: China Confirms Jade Rabbit Rover has Conked Out
NASA Science News: Radioactive Moon
Space.Com: Space Radiation Threat to Astronauts Explained (Infographics)
Space.Com: Radiation Protection for Moon-Based Astronauts
SpaceAnswers.Com: How Did Lunar Astronauts Survive Extreme Temperatures on Moon?
NASA.gov: Is There an Atmosphere on the Moon?

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Portals Project Announces Cover Art Reveal

This is a special Saturday post to let you know there's been an unveiling.

The Galaxy Express gives you an exclusive first look at the gorgeous new covers for the SFR Brigade's Portals project. Tune in to read about the creation process for the covers. (How do you design covers to represent 40 different Science Fiction Romance works by 40 authors, anyway?)

The concept behind Portals was announced on this blog last Monday:

Introducing the Portals Project (And Why Readers Will Love It) 

We'd also like to announce the winner of our Amazon gift card. The winner, chosen at random, is Kelly Crissy-Nickerson. Kelly we'll attempt to contact you through your account, or you can leave a message in comments here. Congrats!
 
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Friday, April 29, 2016

FIVE THINGS I GOTTA HAVE IN ANY SFR STORY


Room for all, but you have to have an FTL drive and capable pilot.
Science fiction romance is a big spaceport. We have berths for all kinds of vehicles from space operas set in the wide galaxy to hearth-and-homes set here on Earth, mad scientists to alien slavers, utopias to dystopias, cyborgs to purple people-eaters. There’s no wonder we have such trouble defining who we are, what it is we’re writing and who we hope will read it. (If you are a member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and follow the Brigade on Facebook, you know we’ve been rehashing these old questions of definition again lately.)

Writers of paranormal romance have no trouble saying their stories must have an element of the supernatural along with a happy ending for the hero and heroine. Likewise, historical romance writers will gladly tell you one of their novels had better have an historical setting and an HEA. But if you had five SFR writers in a room, you would undoubtedly get 25 different answers to the question of what makes for a good SFR story.

Let me start a no-doubt rousing discussion by offering the five things I MUST have in any science fiction romance story to keep me happily reading.

--A hero and a heroine who are equals. A story may be written from anyone’s point of view—the hero’s, the heroine’s, even someone else’s—but in a romance, the hero and the heroine should find a balance in the story. If the heroine is constantly getting into trouble only to have the hero rescue her, or, conversely, is undertaking all the action only to have the hero hanging out waiting to, ahem, service her, then things are out of balance. From a writer’s perspective that often (but not always) means you have to write from both POVs, which makes things harder, but provides more balance in the story. No matter who tells the story, both partners should have talents, skills and qualities that come to bear on the external problems they face.

--A Happy Ever After or Happy For Now ending. This is my Number One requirement for a successful science fiction romance. And, in fact, I want the whole romantic arc: Boy meets Girl (or Boy or Alien Being, your choice), Boy Gets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl Back, Happy Ever After. Within that larger structure there are other well-defined moments: the meet, the declaration, the black moment, resolution. Romance readers (and I’m one of them) have been trained through years of reading experience to recognize those signposts on the road to true love. If they don’t see them, they grow, first, anxious, then frustrated. Deny them the HEA and you have a riot on your hands. This was supposed to be a romance, wasn’t it? What the . . .!  If, for some reason, you can’t bring yourself to write that happy ending, then please don’t market your story as a romance. It’s a story with romantic elements, or a love story set in the future or a friends-with-benefits-in-space story, but, by definition it is not a romance. Save your book being thrown across the room when a romance reader gets to the end and finds the lovers don’t end up together, as I recently did with an otherwise excellent book marketed as SFR.

--A great central idea or theme. This is the key to the SF part of SFR. To me, memorable science fiction always starts with an idea, something simple, yet so evocative it fires the imagination: terraforming Mars; alternate universes; sentient ships; interstellar slavers vs. an organization of abolitionists. This idea can be tied to a central theme—love as a unifying or healing force, for example—to give it even more narrative power. Without the Big Idea, however, or at least an interesting concept, a “science fiction” story is simply one set in the future, or in space, or with aliens. It’s a “futuristic” novel—not a bad thing, just a different thing, with a different marketing angle.

--Convincing, but judicious, worldbuilding. Nothing is more fun than being immersed in a totally new world of an author’s creation, being swept away by a sense of an “alternate reality.” But a little description goes a long way, especially in SFR. I appreciate knowing that we used an ion drive to get here, but the details of how it works are of no interest to me. Worldbuilding details are like spices in cooking. Not enough and the dish is bland; too much and it’s inedible. The amount of worldbuilding detail has an impact on marketing, too, and relates to the expectations of the reading audience. A futuristic novel would have much less detail (and a less demanding audience); a straight science fiction novel would have a LOT of detail (for a very demanding audience). An SFR novel, for me, would provide a balanced taste of the author’s world.

--And, last but by no means least, a compelling tale. Make it fresh. If it’s complex, find a way to make it easy to follow. Make it surprising and emotional and grip-me-by-the-throat thrilling! I read a lot. I’m not the only one. I will skip the stories whose blurbs promise nothing more than yet another “she was stolen . . . and now she must choose . . . ,” but I hate it when I find myself bored in the middle of a story with a promising premise. Use all your writer’s tricks to keep me reading—pacing, snappy dialogue, varied sentence structure, great characters, an unexpected plot twist and, yes, a sharp turn of phrase. If I keep reading, then others will, too.

Of course, all of these must-haves assumes the author already has the basics of good writing well in hand. Did I say this was easy? No, and it shouldn’t be. Not everyone has what it takes to rise above the sea of competition out there and be truly exceptional. But our genre is no longer in its infancy. It’s time for us to grow beyond baby steps and take bigger strides. We’ve been playing in our own little yard long enough. To do that we need the confidence of knowing who and what we are.

Cheers,
Donna


Thursday, April 28, 2016

The vexed question of contracts

(C) Stockunlimited
You've polished your manuscript until it gleams, sent out your queries to publishers, and finally HUZZAH you're offered a publishing deal! A contract! Whoopee! Sign on the dotted line and away we go.

Wait.

Have you read the contract? Do you understand what it means? Because if you don't you may well be signing away the rights to your book forever. Recently some of the largest names in small publishing (Ellora's Cave and Samhain) have gone under. Quite a few smaller publishers have gone the same way. And every time, authors are stuck with not being able to re-publish their books. But it's not just failed businesses. I have friends who bitterly regret signing away their rights to books forever, when their relationship with the publisher went pear-shaped. Most of the circumstances where rights to a book revert to the author, such as the book is out of print, don't pertain to ebooks.

This article gives an insight into why publishers are loathe to return rights.

I have twice been on the wrong end of a failed small publisher.  I was fortunate. I was able to regain my rights. I suppose I should have simply stuck with self-publishing, but I felt one of my books might be better off in a different setting. So I accepted an offer. However, I didn't sign without reading. I particularly insisted on a clause whereby I could regain my rights to the book. It was performance based. If the publisher had not delivered a certain number of sales in a specified time frame, the rights would revert back to me

They didn't reach the target, and I asked for my rights back. I'm not a lawyer, but I want to make the point that if a publisher wants your book, they should be prepared to negotiate the terms of the contract.

Personally, I'll just self-publish. It suits me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Back To The Very Beginning #amediting

A long time ago in a blog post far, far away...

Well, the 14th of June 2011 to be precise. That was the day I did my first post at Spacefreighters as a guest, talking about the inspiration for my very first publication - a scifi short story called The Bones of the Sea. My *coughs* unofficial publishing debut, since it was very much an experiment in all respects and a self published piece. I formatted it myself using the Smashwords style guide, bought a stock image for the cover and added the text, then got a couple of friends to read it over for obvious mistakes, and launched it on Smashwords only as a freebie. The story has had a new cover since release, courtesy of the ever fabulous Danielle Fine, but it's never had an interior makeover. Until now.

Original cover
I've decided the time has come for Bones to get a formal edit, a revamp, and perhaps to finally go up up on Amazon (yes, it's never been available there). I've almost five years of updated bio and links to add to it, and the plan is also to put it in the back of my June release as a bonus story (as they both feature the same planet) and thereby getting it into print as well (it's way too short to qualify for print on its own).
Current cover
Bones is my shortest published work at just 3000 words. I haven't succeeded in writing that short since. But I'm also not writing as long either. In complete contrast to Bones, the revised Keir is 111K. Most recently my titles have been around the 10K mark for a short, or 30-50K for the longer pieces. I'm planning to get back to some really hefty novel-length word counts next year.
I'm hoping to have Bones redone by the end of the week ready to do the whole 'tell Amazon of a lower price' tango, since they're about the only retailer that won't just let you set a book at free. *rolls eyes*

In the meantime...

Status Update
I won Camp NaNoWriMo well ahead of schedule but hung around to encourage my cabin-mates while adding to the June project having completed first round edits on it. The story got a whole new chapter, as well as additional material throughout. Bones will be added to the back for release.

I finally dared to crack open the third round edits on the original draft/first round edits on the revised content for Reunion. But I've only looked through the first, mostly unadjusted third. I haven't braved the revision section yet. In fact, at the moment I'm not sure I want to continue with it at all. One of the advantages of self publishing is that, if I don't feel a book is ready or working, I don't have to put it out. And right now that's how I'm feeling about Reunion. It's so far off where I would like it to be that I think it's broken beyond repair. So I'm going to focus on other things:
Bones and my Rebecca finalist Revived both went to my editor last week as she found herself ahead of schedule. So you may get the second Venus Ascendant story this year after all. No promises! I still don't have an official title for it yet, and frankly I don't know what I'm thinking. Four sets of edits on the go at once? Insane.

Happenings

I'm part of a huge Scifi and Fantasy event starting tomorrow and running until the 29th, with 56 top SF, UF, and Fantasy titles going on sale, free or discounted. There's also a big giveaway - two Kindle Paperwhites, one US and one UK (UK contests are so rare I strongly recommend going for this!), plus Amazon giftcards. It'll be open to US and UK entries from the 27th. For the occasion, my urban fantasy/superhero romance novella When Dark Falls is part of the event, and is reduced to 99 cents/99 pence until the end of April. Superheroes for the win!

A Superhero Romance Novella
Goodreads | Webpage 

Amazon | Kobo B&N
iTunes Smashwords | ARe
Print edition
Amazon | CreateSpace | B&N
The Book Depository
Next month I will be celebrating Keir's fourth book birthday and my fourth anniversary as a published author. It will also be my 23rd wedding anniversary. Together with seven other awesome SFR authors, we'll be holding the Blue Moon Blog Tour later in May for your entertainment! There'll be posts on the blue theme, and a rafflecopter giveaway including books and giftcards.
The Portals project is coming! If you stopped by to read Laurie's post yesterday, you'll know there's an exciting set of scifi romance volumes coming up - first chapters from a variety of authors in varying subgenres. Looking for love in an alternative world? Portals will take you there for free...

Back to my mountain of edits...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Introducing the Portals Project (and Why Readers Will Love It)

Something's coming. Something FUN! But let me start at the beginning and explain what this project is all about.

When I put on my reader's hat, I'm often plagued by the same stumbling block that many readers face. Namely, finding books I love!

There are just so many out there calling my name! I've impulsively snapped up books based on a flashy ad, a terrific cover, or something in the blurb that resonates with me, only to find the story is just not my cup of kinna.

Scouting the great wide book universe for your kind of books--and especially hunting down those in the Science Fiction Romance vein--is no simple task. Sifting through offerings to locate and vet potential treasures on Amazon (or the venue of your choice) by reading through countless blurbs, reviews and clicking the "look inside" feature to get an idea if it ticks all the major "must buy!" boxes for you takes a lot of time.

And "a lot of time" is something few of us have.

What to do?

We just might have a solution for you! Here's the big announcement:
Introducing Portals. 
The #SFRBrigade community of writers is planning a FREE four volume set of Science Fiction Romance beginnings ~ and only beginnings ~ of 40 books by 40 different authors!  
This isn't an anthology, it's a transport to whisk you away to a host of exciting SFR worlds. We know you're going to enjoy the trip, and you're sure to find many amazing adventures you'll want to get lost in.
These four volumes will offer readers who are already fans of the genre a quick and easy way to scout Science Fiction Romance stories that capture their imagination and incite their sense of wonder.

They'll also serve as a gateway for those who've not yet read SFR by providing an unique sampler of what the genre has to offer--the exploration of exciting new worlds, times, and civilizations, and the characters who live them.

To make your literary treasure hunt even simpler, the volumes have been divided into various heat levels--mild, medium and hot! (The first volume to be released will be medium, followed shortly by its sister ships.)

And the authors? You'll get everything from flagship best sellers to perennial favorites to new pioneers. Here's the list of anticipated contributors (in no order whatsoever):

Marcella Burnard    Susan Grant    Lyn Brittan    PJ Dean
Athena Grayson     Sharon Lynn Fisher     SJ Pajonas
Greta van der Rol    Diane Burton    Lisa Morrow    Maeve Alpin
Veronica Scott       Amy Riddle-Declerck       Pippa Jay
      Monica Enderle Pierce   Donna Frelick    Sandy Williams
Laurie A. Green        Alison Aimes         PJ Dean
Melisse Aires     Cara Bristol      Cathryn Cade    KC Klein
Sabine Priestley   Wendy Lynn Clark     Marie Andreas
Jenna Bennett       Michelle Diener     SE Gilchrist
Aurora Springer     Pauline Baird Jones       Amelia Treador
Liana Brooks       K.M. Fawcett     Carysa Locke
Rinelle Grey     Lea Kirk     Rebel Miller     Elizabeth Munro


Exciting, yes?

You'll note the names of the Spacefreighters crew are highlighted in blue--and yes, we're all in! As authors, we're enthused about the opportunity to have our work included in Portals.

What are some of the other Portals authors saying about this collection?

Susan Grant
"From an author's view, I love the creative energy generated by this amazing group of storytellers, who, like me, are excited to be part of this collection. From a reader's view I can't wait to dive into all that dazzling energy transferred to every page."

Stephanie J Pajonas
"I loved the idea of Portals from the beginning. It was such an honor to be included with many other science fiction romance authors and their first-in-a-series works. I thought the Portals project was an ingenious idea and I hope everyone enjoys the new authors and stories we present to them in the collection."

Amy Riddle-DeClerck
"It's so difficult for new writers to get themselves noticed by readers. The Portals projects are a great way for readers to 'try it before they buy it' and hopefully discover new favorite authors!"

Veronica Scott
"I love the idea of The Portals project, providing a wide variety of science fiction romance for readers to choose from! I'm excited to be among this company of imaginative authors, which certainly includes many of my own favorite reads."

Cathryn Cade
"The Portals project brings some of SFR's best and brightest for readers to meet and fall in love with their characters and series. I'm thrilled to be a part of this!"  

Sabine Priestley
"They had me at Portals. Just like the inter-galactic portals in my books, this series will transport you to adventures across the galaxy. Jump in and enjoy the ride!"

Melisse Aires
"Don't we all sometimes wish we had a portal to a fascinating world full of adventure and romance? That is what this collection is all about."

Diane Burton
"I love being part of this project and pleased to be included with so many terrific SFR authors."

Lisa Morrow
"The Portals project is such an amazing idea, both for writers and readers. Readers are able to sample different writers without making a major commitment. Writers get the rare opportunity to show new readers a taste of what they do and hopefully have people who may never have otherwise run across their work become devoted fans."

Information about the release dates, covers reveals and more details will be coming soon. We promise you won't have to wait long!

Please share your thoughts about the Portals project in comments below. We'll choose a random commenter to receive a $5 Amazon.com gift certificate!


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