Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Farewell to Flick

I know my chooks and chicks have acquired something of a following, so I'm sorry to report our first loss among the chicks, who are now five weeks old. On Wednesday, our one female chick was in the coop with the rest of her family. A few hours later when I checked after a fox came bothering my girls, she was missing. We have no idea what happened to her but the fox has to be the number one suspect. There's no sign the fox got in, or any sign how or if Flick got out. A frantic search of both coops, nest boxes and the surrounding undergrowth by myself and eldest found no trace or sign. No frantic cheeping. Even if she simply got out and escaped predators, the torrential nonstop rain all that day and night means there was little chance of her surviving alone outside. Not that I would have liked to lose any of the chicks, but being our sole female and the only one we could keep makes it especially bitter. My poor Flick.
Eldest insists it's not my fault, but of course it is. I took responsibility for my chooks and I obviously didn't do quite enough for their security. Lesson learned. At least the next batch of chicks (should the new eggs currently under our smooth mottle pekin Pitch hatch) will be that extra bit safer. It's not been my best week of the holiday.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Weekend That Wasn't #AmWriting #UnexpectedSetbacks

I'll have a very short blog today, because a monster storm on Friday swept through our area and a suspected tornado or microburst took out sixteen power poles to the east of us--leaving us without power for most of the weekend.

Fortunately, we have a small generator that we were able to hook up to run our refrigerators and freezers so we didn't end up having to throw away a lot of perishable food, but it was a little sobering spending a couple of days and nights in the heat of summer with no air conditioning, water, lights, electric garage doors, electric gate...and having to leave the doors open all night to run the generator lines. (That got unnerving when our across-the-road neighbor's intruder alarms went off!)

Aw well, as the old saying goes, "All's well that ends well."

The storm did make for some pretty dramatic photography, so I'll share a few shots.

These first three were taken just after we lost power.
That *might* be a funnel cloud in the distance.

Cloud effects show a possible windshear event.
The worst of the storm missed us by a few miles, but we did
get about an inch and a half of rain during the afternoon.
That evening, thunderheads building up over the valley.
Another shot of the thunderheads catching the light of the setting sun.

We dodged a bullet in terms of suffering any major damage--just had some downed tree limbs and water-logged property--but it could have been much worse. We're very relieved and grateful we were spared being directly in the storm's path.

It did take a toll on my writing time and a very long and winding list of "Gotta Do's," but hopefully I can catch up this week.

Pets in Space 2 Update

Courting Disaster: StarDog2 has been completed, submitted and accepted for the Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 collection...AND here's a bonus.

There's a free sampler of the first chapters of all the stories now available for #FREE via Instafreebie in .mobi, .epub or PDF formats.

You can grab a copy here: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/EZz5p

And the entire collection is available for preorder. Links to all the vendors are available HERE.

Enjoy...and have a great week!

Friday, August 11, 2017


I may be preaching to the choir here, but allow me to deliver my brief sermon anyhow. I won’t be passing the tithing basket around at the end of it; in fact, I’ll be offering you, dear readers, an incentive if you stick with me until the end.

If you follow this blog, it’s because you enjoy reading my books and those of my co-bloggers, Laurie, Pippa and Greta. You love reading SFR. Maybe you even write SFR yourself. I’m presuming you want us to do well, and you want more books to read—not only more books from us, but more books from our fellow SFR authors. More adventures in space, more aliens and cyborgs and starship captains and brave scientists saving the galaxy. More wild ideas and hot romance. More sexy covers and titles climbing the best seller lists. More awards and recognition for SFR.

Well, you know, we’re doing our best to make that happen. But we need your help. Not just your purchasing power. But your reviewing power.

Yes, I’m talking REVIEWS!

Okay, I can hear the groans from here—like I just assigned you summer book reports. But for those of you who are not writers, let me explain why reviews are important.

--Readers look at reviews to decide what books to buy. Sorting out which of hundreds of titles are the good reads is not an easy task. But if a book has earned five stars on Amazon or Goodreads, from dozens of readers, then it’s surely worth your money.

--Amazon, in particular, uses the number of reviews to determine whether to recommend a book to its customers. At each ascending level of reviews—20, 30, 50, 100—the Amazon computer algorithm will kick in, triggering an automatic response to recommend the book to more readers. That encourages more sales, and more reviews, and so on.

--Some writers don’t read their reviews, but most do. I, for one, don’t write for myself; I write to communicate with my readers. Reviews are one way I get feedback. Sometimes that feedback isn’t easy to swallow, but for the most part it’s wonderful. Without reviews, I feel like I’m sending a message out into a cold and lonely universe. Is anybody out there? 

So, we need those reviews. Of course, we need sales, too. But one feeds the other, and without that engine of encouragement, many writers are deciding to just give up. No more stories from them, their voices going silent.

I can hear you right now, saying, I don’t know how to write a review! I’m not a writer! But that’s the easy part. Amazon only requires 20 words for a review—or about three sentences. You don’t have to describe the plot or the characters. You don’t have to be a critic. You just have to say, in three sentences or so, what you liked about the book and why you think someone else would like it. If you think some things could be improved, you can say that, too (just be nice about it, please).

Need a kick in the pants to do it? Okay. I’m offering a chance at a $25 Amazon gift card to anyone who will review any one of my Interstellar Rescue books (Unchained Memory, Trouble in Mind or Fools Rush In) on Amazon or Goodreads before Monday, August 14. Just post the link to your review either here or on my Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win. I’ll announce the winner on my page Monday, August 14 and again here next Friday, August 18. 

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Writing a book isn't as easy as you might think

I made a comment recently on Facebook, as I struggled with the action in my latest book, that anyone who thinks that writing a book is easy has rocks in their head. Perhaps I should have said anyone who thinks writing a book is easy hasn't done it.

Some people, it seems, can churn out a book in a month or two, which keeps their fans fed. Barbara Cartland wrote 723 books in a 75-year career, which is not much shy of ten books a year (!). However, most of my author friends are nowhere near so prolific. When I publish my current book, For the Greater Good, it will be the second this year, and really, the first (The Stuff of Legend) hardly counts because most of it was written last year.

I wish the prose simply flowed from my writer's fingertips, but it doesn't. I write, I stop to work out where the story goes from here, I do some more writing, then I read back over what I wrote and fix the typos and maybe the wording. By the time the story gets to my editor I've probably edited it myself three or four times. Then I incorporate my editor's suggestions. And then I'll go through it again.

When I started off in the writing game, I did reasonably well, financially. I'm not talking even midlist, but at least I got my costs back. That's no longer true and I know I'm not the only author who has had serious thoughts about giving it away. After all, if people don't read what we write, what's the point?

If you want to encourage your favorite Indie to keep writing, there are a couple of small things you can do. The most powerful (unfortunately) is to write a review if you enjoyed a book. It doesn't have to be much - just "I liked it". It's sad but true that reviews drive vendor algorithms. Books without reviews disappear into the rising tide of new books. (Also, it does give authors a bit of encouragement to know someone enjoyed the result of their hard work.) Apart from that, tell your friends. Nothing works as well as word of mouth.

Meanwhile, the work on For the Greater Good is nearing its end.

Here's the blurb

A Human settlement is destroyed and all signs point to an Yrmak raid as Imperial agents Tian Axmar and Brent Walker scour the site for clues. One thing they never expected to find was a survivor, a rare alien feline with unusual talents.

As tensions between Humans and Yrmak ratchet to the point of no return, Tian and Brent must bring all their cyborg skills to bear as they follow a dangerous trail of deception and misdirection. 

The feline, now dubbed Puss and strongly bonded to Tian, holds the key to many of the questions driving the investigation. Unfortunately, that bond drives a wedge between Brent and Tian’s working relationship, leaving Brent with second thoughts about his decision to become a cyborg.

As the evidence unfolds, it becomes clear that a devious plot to incite an interspecies war will strike at the very heart of the Empire. With lives at risk, there's no time to waste. Racing against the clock, Brent, Tian, and Puss must stop the planned carnage, and this time for Brent and Tian… it’s personal.

I'll have it out for preorder very soon.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#Valerian & The City of a Thousand Planets: Pretty but Loses the Plot #review #scifi

Summary from IMDb:
"A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe."

Warning: minor spoilers included. I'm going to start with the good points because sadly those won't take long...

What I liked
As expected, the visuals were glorious and detailed, and the action fairly nonstop. The start is a little slow but soon makes up for it and the information is important. The main alien race are definitely interesting and well fleshed out but a bit too Avatar-like. The hero and heroine take turns to rescue each other. The other alien races are interesting and intriguing, and I love the idea that our current ISS could expand to be so much more. There's a huge amount of fascinating tech and ideas including a multidimensional market place.

What I didn't like
The casting is appalling. From what I read pre-release Valerian and Laureline are meant to be older characters. Rather than trying to capture/cater to the YA crowd as they appear to have tried for, I think they would have done better with older and definitely more charismatic actors. Valerian looks like a 12yo who's missed several nights sleep and with the personality of one, and amazingly klutzy for a supposedly expert and experienced soldier, while Laureline flips from coldly efficient agent to ferociously jealous girlfriend in denial with annoyingly regular bouts of teenage eye-rolling in between at Valerian's adolescent behaviour. The reveal of the villain came as zero surprise, yet the general's supposed detective work failed to lead him to the commander's crime nor take precautions at the suspicious armed robots in tactical positions that refused to deactivate. The attempts at humour fall flat. The constant unnecessary diversions from the main plot to essentially sight-see some of the thousand planets plus the waste of Rihanna's character as a deus ex machina could/should have all been cut to improve the pace and stop distracting from the main plot. The cliche of the countdown being stopped at 0.01 isn't even the final spine-shattering straw, which goes to the excruciatingly painful, awkward, and unconvincing 'romance' crowbarred into the film which made me want too slap everyone involved. I'm embarrassed to call this a SFR. And one final thing: every time someone mentioned a thousand planets, all I could hear was Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy promising Ronan she would help him destroy a thousand planets if he killed her father, Thanos. O.o

In conclusion:
Despite all my criticisms, I didn't hate this film. I didn't even want to walk out on it unlike the dire disaster of Transformers: The Last Knight. It's saved by the almost constant action and glorious visuals, plus the main plot of a hidden war crime to keep this interesting. I just think Besson did a way better job with The Fifth Element and was trying too hard to make a Cameron/Avatar type film. That said, I would probably say it is worth seeing in all its visual glory at the cinema, though I'm glad we didn't opt for 3D as I was getting a touch of eyestrain just with the 2D version.
Should you go see it? I'm not sure I want to try convincing you to do so. I went in with fairly low expectations on plot but high on the visuals even without reading reviews. I'm not even sure about buying the DVD when it releases. I think I'm going to rate this 5 out of 10 because I'm kind of undecided with The Last Knight as my official 0.

Status Update
No progress on book stuff, but I had a job interview Friday (nerves over which somewhat took the shine off my birthday last Thursday) and...I got it! I'll now be working two six hour shifts at my local grocery store, giving me a bit extra cash while still allowing me to be there for my monsters, look after my chooks, and even work on my books.

Chook Update
The chicks are now just over a month old and about four times bigger than at hatching. They've pretty much lost their chick fluff and have adult feathers. Sadly we now know that five of them are cockerels, with just Splash (now officially named Flick) probably a hen. Even if we could keep a cockerel or two, we certainly couldn't keep all five. My eldest is particularly gutted by this development, but that's the reality of keeping pets and livestock.
The good news is hubs has given his blessing on getting more hatching eggs, and they might even have arrived by the time this post goes live. Fingers crossed for another successful hatch but more biased toward female babies!
Lemon, renamed Bee


Bailey (formally Mot)

Splash, now renamed Flick


Lavender, now Penguin

Mama Effie with Penguin
If you're an aspiring or even published author looking to enhance/expand your skills, this may be the workshop for you:
Ever read a book and wonder how the author created such an incredible, engrossing world? Do you want to BE that author?
Writing is a lot more than just Characters + Dialogue + Action = End. For genre writers especially, worldbuilding is a critical skill that will help you create a world that jumps off the page and into your reader’s mind.
How do you get there?
Where do you start?
Worldbuilding is one of the most intimidating aspects of the writing process, but it doesn’t have to be. In Why Worldbuilding (is the Secret Ingredient): The Complete Beginner’s Guide, Catherine Peace, author of books like Gemini—a science fiction romance featuring a universe built around giant cats, Chuck Norris facts, and aliens galore—will guide you on the journey from creating bland settings to vibrant, believable worlds for your characters and stories to inhabit.
Starting October 16, you'll get your chance to learn about one of the hardest and most rewarding parts of the writing process: Worldbuilding. Using examples from some of science fiction and fantasy's best known worlds, you'll gain the tools and insight you need to create your own.
Once you’ve gone through the course, you should be able to:
·         Understand worldbuilding’s importance and function in your story
·         Utilize the building blocks that will guide you through building your world
·         Calculate the air speed velocity of an unladen European swallow (this is not true; I suck at math)
·         Seamlessly weave your worldbuilding elements into your story
Over the five-week course, we’ll explore some of storytelling’s lushest worlds—from Westeros to Hogwarts with a few unexpected stops in-between—and break them down into easily digestible concepts you can use to beef up your stories and give them the punch that will set them apart. BAM!
Put on your apron, grab your chef’s hat, and join me in October!
*Course details: You will get out of this course exactly what you put into it. It will use a ton of examples from abovementioned famous books and my own writing, and there will be some homework involved. (Don’t worry, I’m not grading anything.) I will always be happy to answer your questions.
Not a writer? You can still get plenty out of Why Worldbuilding! LARPers and RPG enthusiasts alike can use the course to brush up on worldbuilding skills!
Course schedule
Each class is $30, or you can complete the set for $130
Week One – Intro to Worldbuilding: What is it? And why should I do it?
o   Covers:
October 16
§  What worldbuilding is and what it isn’t
§  Worldbuilding and your setting: Houston, I think we have a                    problem.

             October 18
§  Worldbuilding and your characters: Who am I and how did I get here?
§  Worldbuilding and your plot: What does this button do?

 October 20
§  Worldbuilding and your genre: We go together like....
§  Worldbuilding and your story: A mechanic without his tools is just a tool.

Week Two – The Basics: What you need to know and why you need to know it.
o   Covers:
October 23
§  Know your genre.
o   You can mix and match in a thousand different ways, but you need to understand what makes genres, genres.
§  Know your story.
o   Plotters will likely have most everything nailed down. Pantsers need to have a working knowledge of their story - some beginning, mushy middle, vague end. Your world affects it all.
October 25
§  Know your (character's) role in your plot.
o   Basic plots & how your genre shapes them and your characters.
                       October 27
§  Know your characters.
o   Whether you know enough to fill out a dating profile or volumes of biography, you should at least know 3 things: A name, a role, and a goal

Week Three – Playing God, pt 1: The Building Blocks of Civilization
o   Covers:
October 30
§  Family
o   The Family (or lack thereof) Unit
o    What do we eat? When do we eat? …Do we eat?
o    Where do I live?
o   Gender roles & Familial bonds
§  Love and Sex
o   Sex and sexuality
o    What is Love?

        November 1
§  Science, History, Religion
o   Science and advancement—is it even allowed?
o   How is history recorded?
o   Religion, mythology, philosophy, factions, and cults
o   Doctor, Doctor: your physician and you
o   Education: Who gets to learn stuff?
                               November 3
§  Culture at Large
o   Language! (Bonus: Hilarious profanity, colloquial sayings, blasphemy)
o    Transportation: Hoof it, drive it, fly (on) it? How do you get where you need to go?
o   Authorities and vagabonds: Who's in charge here? Should they be?
o   Power dynamics: Who has it and who wants it?
o   When Harry Hates Sally: cultural clashes (Bonus: How we wage war and why it matters)
o   Fashion: You’re wearing WHAT?
o   Currency and economic system: I need stuff, you have stuff, how do we trade?
o   What do I live in?: How architecture tells its own story

Week Four – Playing God, pt. 2: Constructing Your World
o   Covers
November 6
§  History lessons: you don't have to know it all, but you have to know enough to be dangerous.
November 8
§  How boned is your world?: Man’s inhumanity to man, nature, God, and you.
o        Radioactivity, weird-ass seasons, crazy weather? WE GOT IT ALL!
§  How hard does your world bite back?: The flora and fauna and beasties that make the world an interesting and dangerous and scary.
o        Here be Dragons, Magic Zombies, Strange Fruit, and more!
                            November 10
§  What in the actual world(s): Stuff. Thangs. What’s where, why, how?
o        Where you’re from and what it says about you
o        Culture, language, and tradition
o        Technology—Regardless of genre, technology is an important aspect of any society
o        Geography—Not just a category on Jeopardy!
o        Seats of Power
Week Five – Weaving the Tapestry: How does it all come together?
o   Covers
November 13
§  Avoiding the infodump: As you know, Bob, it’s a novel, not a history lesson.
                           November 15
§  How much does your reader actually need to know?

    November 17
§  Showing vs. Telling: AKA the reason the Song of Ice and Fire books are soooooooo loooooooooooooooooooong
Clever inclusions