Dear Readers:

We appreciate the fact the current political environment is highly charged, but we want to keep Spacefreighters Lounge a stress-free place for everyone to visit and exchange ideas about SFR.

Therefore, we ask that you please refrain from making political references that may antagonize those with differing viewpoints. Thank you for your consideration.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spring Is Coming!

Back from half term holiday, and this week I'm going to be a typical Brit: I'm going to talk about the weather (and not just because Greta posted about it last week, lol). Just over a week ago when temperatures had began that small rise hinting at the end of winter, we were swiftly plummeted back into the cold and even had snow. That's not unheard of for the time of year. I've seen snowy Valentine's Days, and the year my youngest was born the older two were making snow bunnies for Easter with their dad (although it was an early Easter that year).
But now the temperatures have taken a definite upward swoop, well into double figures, and the plants are registering the change. Snowdrops have been open for a week, and now the crocuses and other bulbs are up and opening, and green buds are on the hawthorn bushes as we walk to school. And this morning I spotted a couple of frogs in the pond...well, shall we say 'celebrating' the warmer weather? :P
We're still not free of a risk of ice and snow, or at least several hard frosts in the coming weeks, but I can feel the change in the air, see it in the surroundings. And it means I've survived winter. I suffer from SAD, and increasingly over the past few years it seem to have hit me harder and harder each winter. Not so this year. I think despite the cold we had a brighter winter - more sharp cold and clear skies rather than the terrible damp greyness that feels like it's lasting forever. We had days cold enough to numb the skin on my legs which hurt like hell on getting back into the warm, but being out in the sun makes such a difference to my mood. So I'm feeling more hopeful as we move into 2017, despite the horrendous political mire both sides of the Atlantic. Sigh. Still, there's good stuff to come...

Status Update
Keir's Shadow is progressing, but mostly as notes emailed to myself. It's probably my weirdest method of revising to date, but ideas for fixing the plot holes mostly occur while I'm off on my morning walk. I've added over 8K words already, but haven't really got far past the first chapter, patching other random scenes, and fixing the closing scenes. It gives you some idea of how much of a mess this work is in...

Happenings
I was super excited to learn this morning that one of my favourite authors is coming to the UK in a couple of weeks! Being as my chances of going to the US were pretty minute (plus I'm not sure I want to go there in the current conditions), I'm amazed at getting the chance to meet Isaac Marion, author of Warm Bodies and related zombie books. I'm sure I've raved enough about my love for the books for it to be obvious. He'll be visiting three locations in the UK and one in Scotland, and you can find details HERE if interested.

Cosplay Update
I finished youngest's Luigi cosplay just before the half term holiday, then finished part four of a super secret five part project last week. I can't tell you about those until the SFR author who commissioned it has done their reveal. ;) The final part requires further design consultation.
In the meantime I've moved onto eldest's Tauriel cosplay, which includes fletching some arrows. The arrows will never be shot (you're not allowed fireable weapons at most conventions anyway, so the string will be coming off the bow we're taking) but I used to do archery so I want them to look as convincing as possible.


















Chook Update
With the warmer weather, I've been spending some time out in the garden with my girls. And they've been busy - we're now getting one or two eggs a day. After her traumatic encounter with the fox last year, Kyru appears very reluctant to venture outside the coop anymore, but the others are enjoying the return of this extra freedom.






Left to right: Kyru, Scoop, Pitch, Fizzgig (Effie behind)




Back to the job hunting...

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Expanse: Seven Reasons Why You Should be Watching This Show

First, I'm going to make a guess.

You're here because you love science fiction in more ways than just books.

If so, trust me, if you're not already doing so, you should really check out The Expanse, SyFy Channel's original series that is just starting its second season. Why? Because it's everything good science fiction should be--told within the framework of a darkly imagined future, with terrific characters, factual science (which is neither boring nor dumbed-down) and very high stakes.

For booklovers, this television series was based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey, which is actually the writing team of Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham. I got to see Ty Franck in action with a panel of Caltech scientists and this author can hold his own with the most brilliant minds. Getting it right was very important to him.

The series "went deep" with the books, pulling in characters from connected novellas to round out the cast and the story. I haven't read the books yet. I'll save that for a time after this series ends--which hopefully will be in the distant future. This one's a keeper.

Some describe it as "Game of Thrones meets Battlestar Galactica" and though the tag fits it's also a little superficial. I haven't fallen this much in love with a sci-fi series since the demise of Defying Gravity, which was never given a chance to find an audience due to network politics and a DOA time slot late on Sunday night. 

I really don't want to see The Expanse fall into the same pit, so I've made it my mission to spread the word. If I were ever to write straight sci-fi, this would be the kind of story I'd want to tell.

Here are some insights from the author team, because what writer out there doesn't want to know what it's like to stand on the deck of a ship you created on a page years before? (Hey, we can all dream, can't we?) They also discuss their system for collaborating. (Cool insights for authors, but readers may prefer to skip it.)



I could give you a hundred reasons why this show rises above the rest, but instead, I'll key in on just seven things that make The Expanse so remarkable. And I'll do it with clips so you can get an actual taste for this world.

Number 7.
The future. It's 200 years from now, but a time that still reflects much of the here and now. The slang has changed and the language has evolved, but the basic needs, desires and struggles of humanity are the same as we begin to colonize the solar system. In this clip, the cast explains the complex world-building behind The Expanse.



The wide diversity of the cast is just one element that seems dead-on. As we start to colonize our solar system, I believe it will be a global effort and that means the colonies will reflect global diversity. The future won't belong to, as Ty Franck put it during a Caltech panel discussion, "white guys in space." And true to that thinking, this is not a "white guys in space" series. In fact, it's also not a "guys in space" series. It's shot through with strong, tough-minded female characters--engineers, politicians, military officers and even marine gunnies.

Number 6.
The characters. Holden--reluctant leader. Miller--jaded cop. Chrisjen--driven politician. Naomi--brilliant engineer. Amos--mechanic and bad-ass loose cannon. Alex--ice trawler pilot with a eye-brow raising past. The story begins with three story threads--Holden's, Miller's and Chrisjen's--that become closely interwoven as events unfold. Julie Andromeda Mao is a minor character who creates the glue for all the plot threads. Detective Miller, the cop from asteroid Ceres, is assigned to find her because a missing person report was filed by her fabulously wealthy father, and Miller ends up chasing her halfway across the solar system. Solving the case is not his primary objective. She is. Holden, a newly drafted Executive Officer on an aging ice trawler is soon on her trail too, but for different reasons. What happens to Julie Mao (no spoilers, but....OMG, wow!) will create huge political complications for Chrisjen. (Who, BTW, has one of the most spectacular wardrobes ever created for television.)

To get a better sense of these multi-layered personas, here's an introduction in the actor's own words.



Oh, and let's not forget Roci. More about her in Number #4.

Number 5.
Realism. The title of this clip is Zero G Gunfight. Two hundred years in the future no method of generating reliable artificial gravity has been invented yet. There's some gravity generated due to movement, such as thrust gravity, spin gravity, etc., but much of the time, it's just plain no gravity. So what do they do to avoid floating about? Two words. Mag boots. Sometimes the gravity cuts out unexpectedly--like in the middle of a firefight--and then they need to have knowledge of the laws of physics to save their butts. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. James Holden uses his head--and his boot--to work through this dilemma.



The production teams' devotion to realism was also highlighted in the Caltech panel. They actually have a person responsible to ensure the starfield shown in the background of the space scenes depicts the correct stars and orientation to the particular point in space where the action happens. Has anyone even thought of that before for a sci-fi television series?

Yes, amazing realism.

Number 4.
Attention to detail. Here's one example. What do you do after you inherit a Martian gunship from a vaporized destroyer? Disguise it. Stat! Starting with the transponder that identifies the ship.



James Holden explains that Rocinante means "work horse" in Spanish. But it also carries a meaning in popular folklore. Rocinante was the name of Don Quixote's horse when he went on his impossible quest and dreamed his impossible dream.

Coincidence? I think not. One of the episodes is titled Windmills.

Number 3.
Seamless science. Case in point--Flip and Burn: High G Ship Maneuver. They get the science right, but still make it suspenseful and fascinating. No, Virginia, "suspenseful science" is not an oxymoron, and you don't necessarily have to blow things up to make a scene dramatic. (Though there is plenty of that, too.)



This is one of my fave scenes to date (but there are probably too many to count).

So what's "the juice"? In the "Science Behind The Expanse" panel at Caltech, the writers explained that high G events such as what James Holden called a "flip & burn"--or flipping the ship around to fire the engines in a new direction, or merely to slow down by counteracting acceleration--refer to the heavy gravity produced by the thrust of a starship pushing the passengers toward the rear of the vessel. This causes the blood vessels to stress and capillaries to burst, especially in the eyes. "The juice" is a formula that makes the arteries and blood vessels more elastic during the time the ship is moving forward rapidly in space, exerting huge pressure on the human body. Fascinating stuff.

Number 2.
Sexy times! Yup. There's sexy times in the asteroid belt--some of it in Zero G. But sorry, no video! The only clip I could find was overdubbed with cheap porno music, so I'll spare you that. You may have gotten a glimpse of Holden's sexy times in the Number 6 characters video above. The relationship is short-lived, but very, very important for Holden's character and for an understanding of what drives him on this quest to tilt with windmills.

Number 1.
Expect the unexpected. This is the pivotal scene in the first episode that sets everything in motion. Our prime crew (James Holden, Naomi, Amos, Alex and the medic) is sent out in the Knight, one of the shuttles from ice trawler Canterbury (aka "The Cant") to investigate a distress signal originating from a derelict ship called the Scapuli.

They board the Scapuli to investigate and THEN...well, just see for yourself.



If you're not convinced by this point that you must see this show, then it's probably not for you. (Move along, move along...)

But to quote a few hundred thousand rogue belters, "Remember the Cant!"
____________________________________

P.S. I've reference the Caltech panel on "The Science Behind The Expanse" several times in this blog. If you're interested in viewing it, you can find it on YouTube (just click the title above to be linked). It runs about an hour and a half and discusses the Epstein drive and many other topics in more detail. Many thanks to fellow SFR author Sabine Priestley for bringing it to my attention in a Facebook post.

Have a great week!

Friday, February 17, 2017

A WEIGHTY TOPIC: THE BURDEN OF GRAVITY


For most science fiction writers who aim to send their characters into space the big technical hurdle is overcoming vast distances. We spend a lot of time thinking about ion drives and hyperspace and jump nodes and wormholes and the like, trying to decide how our starships are going to get around the galaxy. If you ask me, STAR TREK’s warp drive was just about the coolest idea ever. I just wish I’d thought of it.


We spend much less time thinking about something with which we have a lot more experience—gravity. Well, we can have a lot of fun with such toys as gravity boots, anti-grav sleds, spinning space ships or stations or the loss of artificial gravity when a ship comes under attack. Some of us can have even more fun writing scenes set in parts of the ship without gravity, for, um, various reasons.

But as a writer of science fiction romance (and most emphatically a non-scientist), I can’t tell you how the artificial gravity (AG) works on my starships. I’m not of the centrifugal spin camp—too clunky for smaller ships that might find themselves in a three-dimensional space battle at any time. I have to trust that some future genius has invented an electromagnetic field that can be generated within my ships to mimic gravity, the loss of which can sometimes be used to dramatic effect.  Sorry, all you real physicists out there. Just hold your noses and read on.

But Isaac Newton’s little darling can cause trouble in other areas of our stories, too, primarily because mass has a relationship with gravity. We send our characters to all sorts of planets in our adventures, and we envision exotic flora and fauna and alien creatures for them to interact with. But what about the size of those planets? Are they bigger or smaller than our Earth? If they’re smaller, our characters will tend to bounce all over. (Think Neil Armstrong on the moon.) If bigger, our manly heroes will be dragging and gasping within minutes. Face/palm!

The bad-guy aliens of my Interstellar Rescue series, the Grays, hail from a planet slightly smaller than Earth, which accounts for their short stature and slender limbs. That is also why they find Earthers of particular use as slaves—our larger frames and musculature developed on this planet make us good workers. However, we can be a physical danger to them, so they mindwipe us and use another large species as guards, the Ninoctins.

In my current work in progress, Follow the Sun, a group of human slaves escapes a labor camp and hijacks a Gray ship. Overcoming the skeleton crew of alien officers would not otherwise be a problem, but moving is awkward on board the Gray ship, where the AG is set for the planet of Minertsa. Let me just say the fight choreography for those scenes was challenging!

So, what about you? Met any good technical writing challenges lately?

PING PONG

Very bizarre weather you're having Down Under, Greta!  More evidence of the supposed "hoax" of global warming. Here in the mountains of North Carolina, we finished out another year of extreme drought in 2016, the warmest year on record. This winter has so far also been very mild, with very little snow (which I won't complain about) and close to record-breaking temperatures. Meanwhile, New England suffers under snowstorm after snowstorm. Welcome to the future, y'all.
 
Cheers, Donna






Thursday, February 16, 2017

The weather's been out of this world

(c) Deposit photos
Do you mind if I mention the weather? In a country like Australia, extremes are a part of the furniture. Everybody knows we go through cycles of flood and drought. It's expected. But just right now the weather is... weird. Australia's a big place - as large as the continental USA - so variations in weather are expected. But down in the south-west, around Perth, this is high summer. Temperatures in the 40s (105 and more for you Americans (nobody else uses fahrenheit anymore)) are par for the course. It's a Mediterranean climate - dry summers, we winters. Except right now the rivers are flooded and Perth has had its second wettest day on record, with temperatures around 17C (62F). And not just Perth, of course. The wheat belt to the East of Perth is under water.

Further North, around Karratha, rain at this time is not unusual, a spin off from the tropical monsoon. But not like this. Roads are damaged, there's water everywhere.

Further to the east around the arid centre of Australia the farmers have welcomed good rains over the past several months. But now they're in for sweltering heat and hot winds - a recipe for bushfires. People have been told to leave some areas because if fire starts, it will be virtually impossible to control. And the fires are burning.

In Tasmania (this is still high summer everywhere, remember) snow is falling.

Where I live, in a sub-tropical region which receives most of its rain right now, we've had nothing for weeks.

Lake Eyre in the middle of Australia
I can hear you wondering what that has to do with SF. Well, I think it just goes to show that planets cast as just one climate (Dune, Tattoine) might be possible, but there is such rich diversity even on our little blue ball. As authors we need to bear in mind the diversity of nature, and the effects of climate changing over time. That's why I have put that picture up there. It was the inspiration for a scene in The Stuff of Legend, a crashed space ship. It came down in water centuries ago. And then the climate changed. I imagined such a ship coming down into the great inland lake which used to exist in the middle of Australia. Now it's a salt lake in a sea of sand.


Meanwhile, I'm slowly working on Morgan's Misfits II.

Oh - and if you've bought a copy of The Stuff of Legend, I thank you. If you enjoyed it please tell your friends. Here's the links.


When history professor Olivia Jhutta receives a distress call from her parents, she sets out into space with their business partner, her grandmother and injured Confederacy Admiral Jak Prentiss to find them. But she’s not the only one interested in the Jhutta’s whereabouts. The Helicronians believe Olivia’s parents have found an ancient weapon which they can use to wage war on the Confederacy.

Jak goes on the trip to fill in time while he’s on enforced leave, helping Olivia follow cryptic clues in what he considers an interplanetary wild goose chase in search of a fairy story. But as the journey progresses and legend begins to merge with unsettling fact, Olivia and Jak must resolve their differences and work together if they are to survive. The two are poles apart… but it’s said opposites attract. If they can manage to stay alive.

Buy the book: Amazon  Google iBooks  Nook Kobo  Print

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Blast From Quickshot #spaceopera #excerpt

Happy Valentine's Day! It's Spring half term holiday in the UK (already!) which means I'm taking a week out with my monsters. So just a quick excerpt from my recent SFR Galaxy Award winner Quickshot to entertain you this week: and in contrast to celebrating a day for lovers, this particular blind dinner date is not going well. Enjoy!

Dinner was the best she’d had in forever. She hadn’t eaten seafood since leaving her home planet. True, it wasn’t as good as the fish gumbo her adoptive parents had made, but the shrimp still tasted of the sea, and Cheery’s hot sauce hid the aftertaste typical of space-shipped food. And with her second triple shot already half consumed, it was looking like a good evening.
Then a man slid into her booth, put one arm around her shoulder and ran his other hand up her thigh while whispering desperately in her ear. “Please. Pretend you know me for the next five minutes.”
Rage hotter than Cheery’s sauce exploded inside her, along with the overwhelming relief of finally having an outlet for her fury.
The next instant, the interloper had the separate barrels of one double blaster either side of his throat so that her fist rested hard against his Adams apple.
“Um.” The not quite a word came out like a whimper as he put his hands in the air.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t spatter your feeble sack of brains against the wall behind you?” she growled. She felt him gulp, his throat moving against her knuckles.
“Because I’ll...pay you? Lots?” Large, semi-translucent shades curved to fit his face hid the color of his eyes, but she saw him blink rapidly as she pushed the gun a little harder into his flesh. “Or, if you wait a few seconds, the local authorities can save you the bother.”
His eyes flicked to the right, and she warily followed suit, leaning ever so slightly around the edge of her booth. Not Imperium rezzers as she’d feared, but the local patroni were indeed at the door, and she didn’t owe them any favors. Mind you, she owed this feck more than a slap after he’d touched her without permission or even an introduction. But she was cargo-less right now, badly in need of the work, and he’d mentioned payment.
She eased off a fraction. “How much to not kill you?”
“Whatever you want. Anything at all.” He said it with such sincerity, his breathing so ragged, that, for an instant, Sal imagined him under her, tied to her bed, naked. The light tan skin at the unbuttoned collar of his shirt was sheened in sweat.
###
Sal, a legal carrier (just about) of whatever comes her way, puts her trust in just two things: her guns.

Keeping out from under Imperium eyes—especially those belonging to a certain Ehi Wahu—while making a living, and trying to keep a lover who can tolerate her twitchy trigger fingers, are the extent of her ambitions. 

Then a kiss from a passing stranger, and a promise of the biggest score in a long time, tempt her. Devin fulfils more than one need, but he comes with more trouble than one woman can handle. And this time it'll take more than her guns to save her. She'll have to trust a man again.

WARNING: for over 18s only. Adult content including sex, bad language, & implied extreme violence.

A Space Opera Short Story
Goodreads | Webpage
Amazon | Smashwords
iBooks | Kobo | B&N

Monday, February 13, 2017

Can Horses and SFR Ever Mix?

I could subtitle this segment: Should I put a horse...in spaaaaaaace? :)

When a friend posted a reminder that February is "Love Your Horse" month, it got the idea wheels turning in my head, once again. Then I saw this blog from Tor.com: Genre Runs on Horsepower: Introducing the SFF Equine and my muse got a little over-excited, insisting that I really need to put a horse in a sci-fi romance. Sometime.

Well...

Silver (Silver N Straw) as a yearling.
Halter champion, dressage horse,
hunter and ranch horse.
With us for 29 years, age 2-31.
The truth is I've been around horses most of my life. It started in my pre-teens with a best friend who had horses, then my sister acquired a remuda of pleasure horses that I helped exercise. I finally bought my first horse at the tender age of seventeen.

Terry was an absolutely wonderful little grade saddle horse, who tolerated all sorts of teenage-tomfoolery like having his idiot rider stand up in the saddle or ride at a breakneck gallop through the woods. I was very fortunate he was that very special brand of equine called a "kids horse." He'd tolerate practically anything and always took care of his rider. (Probably the reason I never ended up in traction.)

Later in life, I started practicing dressage (and I say "practicing" because it truly is a discipline), got involved with Quarter Horses and became one of syndicators of a very nice Quarter Horse stallion with the unlikely name of Lucks Chic Gay. Lucks was 16 hands, black and actually half Thoroughbred. His sire was What Luck, a son of the famous Bold Ruler, who sired Secretariat and a dynasty of great Thoroughbreds. "Our" Lucks made quite a name as a sire in his own right, producing stakes winners on the track as well as winners in the show ring. He's gone now...but his bloodline lives on.


After all these years, this is the only photo I could find of Lucks online, taken when he was a young stallion.

Our first home bred, an Appaloosa colt that we registered as
To Boldly Go. His nickname -- Trekkie. :)

After moving to New Mexico, we got out of the business of breeding Quarter Horses, had a few saddle horses, did some showing and pleasure riding, bred an Appaloosa (see the caption above for the sci-fi centric name), and after more than a decade, went back to breeding racehorses. This time Thoroughbreds.

One of our Thoroughbred "babies" at Sunland Park last month.
 
And yet, even with all this horse experience, I have yet to write an actual horse into one of my sci-fi romances.

A hologram of a horse? Yes, there's one of those.

A woman who's knowledge of pedigrees and genetics helps change an empire? Yeah, that's in a story, too.

A civilization that manages humans much like they would the horses on a Kentucky breeding farm? That also made its way into a book.

But an actual horse? No. Not a one.

It's really a pretty daunting thought for this writer. There are so many things to get wrong when it comes to horses, even for a somewhat knowledgeable horseperson. And the logistics of putting a horse on a starship? Or being introduced into a new colony setting? Or having a herd running wild on an alien planet as the survivors of some space disaster?

Hmm. Maybe I really DO need to put a horse in a SFR. Soon!
_______________________________________

I wanted to wrap up this week's blog on an encouraging note. The weekly television news magazine Sunday Morning did a feature on Romance books as its annual tribute to Valentine's Day. Eloisa James was the featured author, though Beverly Jenkins and Sarah Wendell (of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books) had sound bytes, and others were mentioned or had their books in the segment.



For me, the bright spot of the feature was when they mentioned some of the different types of romance that existed--same sex, suspense...and sci-fi (at 3:12). YES! They actually gave SFR a nod! We've come light years, baby. And this was yet another sign that SFR is making its mark in the industry. I heart that!

Have a Happy Valentine's Day.

And have a great week.



Friday, February 10, 2017

FIVE WAYS TO MAKE THAT BOOK A KEEPER



It’s that time of year again, when those of us with either a competitive bent or a masochistic streak hit the big writing contest circuit. Or, more precisely, when our books or manuscripts are being judged on that circuit. That also means some of us, at least, are serving as judges of our peers’ work or mentoring unpublished authors in manuscript contests.

I must have “Punish Me” (or maybe “Bwahahahahaha!”) written in big letters on my forehead, because I actually enjoy serving as a judge. It’s such a rush to discover gold among the dross—a feeling I’m sure agents and editors share. And over the years, I’ve developed a little system to rate the books I read, in the absence of any guidance from the contest chair. (To be clear, if the contest chair provides the rating system, I use that.)

Any reader uses a similar system when she reads our books, whether she knows it or not. It’s called “What goes on my keeper shelf?” 

If your keeper shelf looks like this, you may need to cull a few!
The criteria that each reader chooses to put a specific book on the keeper shelf certainly varies from reader to reader. What you think is important is surely different from what I think is important. Lord knows, every agent and editor has his or her own, sometimes unfathomable, list. But one thing we all can agree on is that every author wants to end up on that shelf, and not in the Goodwill box.

So, here’s what I look for in a “keeper,” both when I’m judging, and when I’m reading for pleasure:

1)    Compelling characters. All my favorite authors, no matter what the genre, write memorable characters. Stephen King’s hometown sheriffs, Christine Feehan’s Carpathians, J.R. Ward’s tortured modern vamps, Eloisa James’s witty Regency royalty, Linnea Sinclair’s tough spacers—I love them all. Even good nonfiction (and I read a fair amount of it) must have its intriguing heroes, heroines and villains, or it becomes just a dry recitation of facts.

2)    A great adventure. Whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, the author has to keep me wanting to know what happens next. In a romance, of course, this works on two levels—what happens between the lovers and what happens to the lovers. In both cases, the problems have to be big and they have to be complex to keep my interest. But this is not just about plotting, either internal or external. It’s also about pacing. A dysfunctional hero and heroine can have big, complex problems, but if all they do is talk about them for 400 pages, I’m out.

3)    An evocative setting. Most people read to escape in some way, and I’m no exception. I want a book to take me somewhere, to make me really feel like I’ve been there when I return to my living room. For that I need the details—the sights, the sounds, the smells, the bite of cold, the crunch of gravel. As Laurie so aptly put it in her post this week, I need to smell the roses. Note that I didn’t say “an exotic setting.” An author can take me to Small Town, USA, as contemporary romance writer Kristan Higgins does, and I’ll be happy, as long as she provides the comforting sights and sounds of home.

4)    Spectacular craft. I can enjoy a book if the story is good and the characters well-drawn, even if the author’s style is merely competent. I can tolerate it if the story is great, even if the author’s style makes me step out of that story every few pages to shake my head at a gaff in diction or sentence structure. But those books won’t land on my keeper shelf. Keepers are the ones where I stop every few chapters and go, “Oh, my God, how did she do that?” They’re the ones that make me want to flag a particularly beautiful turn of phrase or piece of dialogue. I have whole shelves devoted to authors who consistently make me do that—Linda Howard, Nalini Singh, Ursula K. Leguin, and all the writers mentioned above.

5)    The wow factor. Outstanding performance by an author can deliver a jolt that brings me up out of my seat in unexpected delight. I might find myself laughing or crying or whooping in triumph, but that emotion is almost always followed by “wow!” The wow factor is all about respect for what the author has been able to accomplish in eliciting that emotion. For that to happen, everything in the book has to be clicking on all cylinders—character, plot, setting, craft. Wow.

I must admit not every book on my keeper shelf has that wow factor. And in judging, that’s on the order of extra credit. Still, the criteria for my keeper shelf are pretty strict. There’s only so much room in my bookcase, after all. I imagine every reader’s keeper shelf is just as limited. Something to think about as I write that next book.

What do you look for in a keeper? Do you have favorite authors who always land on your keeper shelf?

Cheers, Donna