Friday, April 29, 2011


Donna’s Journal


Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

I continued my sojourn on the other side of the fence this week, reviewing entries as a judge for my local chapter’s annual writing contest. My hat is off to all judges everywhere, especially those who actually take the time to comment on the entries they’re given. It would be easy enough to simply read the pages and run through the scoresheet, I suppose. But to think through where the writers might be able to improve and give them legitimate praise where they have done well takes time. Or am I just a little obsessive-compulsive? Let’s just hope my judgees find the feedback helpful.

Meanwhile, I used what I learned from my judging experience to tighten up my entry for the 2011 Tampa Area Romance Authors contest. Boy, do my hero and heroine have goals, motivation and conflict now! And all in that first 4000 words!! Any of you who think you can out-GMC me should get a move on. The contest deadline is May 1. Details at http://www.tararwa.org/.

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

RWA has finally announced the times and dates for signing up for agent/editor pitch appointments at the national RWA conference in New York City in June. Unlike past years, the one-day Oklahoma-land-rush-like stampede of writers eager to snag slots with their favorite agents and editors has been replaced with a slow-motion, agonizing Chinese-torture-like endurance contest stretching over several weeks.

As always, nominees for the 2011 Golden Heart and RITA Awards (are you listening, Laurie and Sharon?) will get first pick of the available slots, starting Tuesday, May 3, at 9:00 a.m. CDT (reminding us all that RWA HQ is in Texas). Next up will be GH and RITA nominees from 2010 and 2009, signing up on Monday, May 9, at 9:00 a.m., CDT. PAN and PRO members (that’s me, yay!) get a crack at slots starting Monday, May 16, 9:00 a.m. CDT. And, at last, everyone else gets a chance at whatever may be left, starting Monday, May 23, at, you guessed it, 9:00 a.m. CDT. Keep in mind that you must be registered for the conference in order to sign up for agent/editor meetings.

And, of course, once you obtain that coveted pitch slot, you may commence throwing up with anxiety.

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Sharon—Welcome back. Sounds like Costa Rica was fun. Can’t wait to get a real glimpse of the Mystery Man. As for GP, amazing what some real time away from a manuscript will do for your perspective. Have a feeling I’ll be doing that myself soon!

@Laurie—Thanks for your tribute to the Endeavor. Such a sad time for NASA and all of us who grew up with the dream of space travel. Meanwhile,how’s the dress decision going?

Cheers,
Donna

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Last Flight of the Endeavor

There's an awesome poster for this historic flight, scheduled for  Friday...


And a patch...



And, of course, quite a story. 

Wish I could be there, but alas.  It truly saddens me that we've come to this passing of an era, and to know how much we're losing in the cancellation of our shuttle program, and our leading edge in space exploration.

In John Denver's (slightly altered) lyrics:

Ah, Endeavor, the places you've been to
The things that you've shown us
The stories you tell

Ah, Endeavor, we sing to your spirit
And the crews who have served you
So long and so well

Godspeed, Endeavor.

To Tatt or Not to Tatt: Sound Off

My 2011 Golden Heart finalist group has put forward a proposal:  Let's all get a 2011 Golden Heart tattoo! 

First of all, I'm not a fan of tatts.  While some of the images are stunning, I don't like the look of them on skin so I've never been tempted to get one. 

Okay, I confess.  That last statement isn't entirely true.  I once saw a tatt that I totally coveted.  It was on the shoulder of a fellow attendee (yes, a female) at the University of New Mexico Writers Conference -- the Starfleet shield (from Star Trek for the uninitiated).  Ohhh, how I mulled that over.  For a long time. 

A GH tatt falls clearly in the "I think I like this crazy idea" category.

So I'm faced with this new tatt venture.  I'd love to mark (literally?) this landmark in my life and writing career.  But if I did, where would I put it?  If it's somewhere that shows, it's always going to be out there on public display.  If I put it somewhere it won't show, well....what's the point of breaking my own non-tatt policy and undergoing a procedure I'm not really crazy about if it's never to be seen? 

Might as well have it show (if I go ahead and do it, mind you).  So, theoretically, if I do the 2011 GH tatt thing....where would I have it permanently etched for posterity?

Ankle?  I hear that's very painful.  I'm not crazy enough about this idea to have excruciating pain go along with it.  (Wimp!)

Upper arm?  Then it will show if I wear a tank top, a sleeveless top or dress...or my GH ceremony formal.  Hmm....not sure about that either.

Wrist?  Hm, is that ever done?


Hand?  No.

Lower arm?  Um...too Popeye-ish.

Back of calf?  I don't think so.

Thigh?  Uhhhh...not enthused.

Definitely not face, neck or throat area.

I think I'm out of options.

What do you think?  Any ideas on placement?  Do you have tatts?  Where? (IF you can say in a public venue.)  Ever regret getting them?  Were you resistant to the idea, but glad you ended up doing it?  Or did you curse your inevitable but impetuous impulse?  Please help me out and chime in with your sage advice or words of dire warning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sharon's Journal

Apparently I'm not so good at this journal thing. How many weeks have I missed? Anyhow, let's see if I can catch up...

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

On the writing front not much has changed...For the foreseeable future, will be buried in a read-through/revision pass of GHOST PLANET. This pass has been interesting, though. It's been over a year since I read it, and since then I have completed a second project and started a third.

The objectivity this has given me is AWESOME. I think I've made some real improvements to dialog especially. (I'm no longer so in love with my own wording!) And I've clarified backstory a bit, which I think will enrich the story overall. The drawback is I'm struggling to find a rhythm. I tinker with bits of wording for far too long. And I have this funny, tentative feeling..sort of waiting to fall back in love with my characters. Worried me at first, but then I realized the same thing happened when I tried to shift from writing GHOST PLANET to ECHO 8...

Discoveries
New authors, cool web sites, great resources, great workshops

This week I was contacted by a Danish student of Library Sciences who is researching the Sci-Fi Romance subgenre and community. (Interesting!) He sent me a handful of very insightful questions. He is hoping for participation from both writers and nonwriters. Are you an SFR fan/reader who doesn't write? If so, and if you'd be willing to answer a few questions, please post in the comments, or email me at info @ sharonlynnfisher.com. 

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

One of my Ruby sisters (also an RWA chapter-mate of Laurie's), Shea Berkley, has just sold a fantasy novel to Entangled Publishing. They have a very interesting model. Check out their Web site and Facebook page, but here is an excerpt...

Founded by industry-savvy authors and backed by a successful media corporation, Entangled Publishing utilizes a bold new business model to bridge the gap between traditional and indie publishing, giving our authors the best of both worlds. We implement the agency model across all departments at Entangled, which means everyone from the copy editor to the marketing director has a financial stake in your book.
In other words, we don’t make money unless you make money. Lots of it.

Random Distractions
'Nuff said 

Part of the reason I've been AWOL is, in celebration of my recent sale and Golden Heart final, I took my first vacation in more than two years. Two weeks in Costa Rica. We had an amazing time. Here is a photo of me and my fella.,.well, sort of. You will have to use your imagination. ;) Sure wish I always looked that relaxed.

But writers are never fully on vacation. While on a Monteverde Cloud Forest walk, I learned about a plant that has a symbiotic relationship with a specific bug. Basically keeps the bugs happy inside a flower "hotel" by giving them drugs. When the flower drops off, the bugs stumble out with a massive hangover. They're addicted to the drug and immediately go out looking for a new flower...voila, pollination! Some form of this is definitely going to show up in my new novel.

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna - Really enjoyed reading your post while on my vacation:

Top 5 ways to guarantee romance readers will hate your SFR novel


@Laurie - So, what's the dress decision?????

Monday, April 25, 2011

Laurie's Journal

It’s been another very busy and extremely productive week, and I’ve got some great things to share for my Mission: Success Journal today.  And psst!  I’m also going to be asking your opinion on a BIG decision.

So, on with the journal…


Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

At about 11:30 last night I achieved a major milestone! I completed the revisions for The Outer Planets! This is such a huge—and timely—accomplishment. I decided to tear TOP apart after entering it the Golden Heart last November, and after a winter where my muse decided to take an extended vacation on St. Martin, I got very little done. When it finaled in March, I had a “suck in my breath” moment. The earlier draft is lacking and the revisions were far from being soup. If a request comes in for a full from any of the final GH judges, I’ll only have 48 hours to send a revision, so this was a major “must do” task. I’m so enthused I was able to buckle down and get ‘er done!

So there’s my achievement of the week (month…year….decade!) and the proud and “whewable” entry into my journal:

The market draft of The Outer Planets completed on Easter Sunday, April 25, 2011.

For the first time ever I have two—count ‘em, TWO!—manuscripts at the marketing stage (and it certainly doesn’t hurt that both are Golden Heart finalists).

So what am I gonna do now? No, not go to Disney World. Did that last year for the RWA conference. :) I’m going to start work on my third project. Yes, another SFR, but another very different story. My goal? A third entry for the Golden Heart this year (provided I’m still eligible).

Discoveries
New authors, cool web sites, great resources, great workshops, great online sites!

The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood, also known as the 2009 RWA Golden Heart Finalists (Sharon is a member) were kind enough to do an Introduction to the 2011 Golden Heart Finalists. Due to my heavy work load on my day job, I wasn’t able to respond in time to be included (Sharon was, however), but I hopped online bright and early to be the first to comment.

It was fun to share our squeeeeee! moment with the Rubies. They’ve been so supportive and their blog is a gold mine of information for writers. Consider adding it to your list of FVBs (Frequently Visited Blogs).

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

Let’s declare April 29, 2011 “The Power of Love” Day!

Why? Because major events this coming Friday could possibly be pivotal days for two historic romances.

The Royal Romance
The marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton as the culmination of a romance that has captivated the world. Reminiscent of the opulent wedding of Prince William’s parents—Prince Charles and Lady Diana—every detail is being attended to. The dress, the carriages, the uniforms, the mounted procession, the oh-so-proper pomp and ceremony. The world will be abuzz with the pageantry and fairytale qualities of the event.

The Romance Flight
The second-to-the-last launch of the Space Shuttle and the final flight of Endeavor, mission STS-134, will be lead by Commander Mark Kelly, supportive husband of the injured Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Gifford, who suffered a serious head injury during a shooting in January, in what is probably one of the great real-life romance stories of the decade. Representative Gifford has been cleared by her doctors to travel to Florida to watch this historic launch.

Our best wishes to these inspiring couples for a stellar, crowning day.


Happenings
Events, conferences, cons as well as Facebook, Twitter and blog events.

One of the big topics of discussion between Golden Heart finalists? The dresses, of course! I’ve been shopping, and I’ve narrowed it down to three choices. So far, in gathering votes from friends, family and coworkers, my selections are running a dead heat. Oh no!

Help me decide by entering your choice in the poll below.

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna Loved your article on the benefits of judging as an educational tool for writers. You nailed it.

@Sharon Glad you’re back from your trip, though I’m sure life is still frantic for you. Hope things settle down soon.


"VOTE FOR MY DRESS" POLL

View the dresses below, pick your favorite and cast your vote in the comments.
Thank you!

Dress #1 - Black with satin bodice, one shoulder strap with jewel detail and Grecian style chiffon draping

Dress #2 (above) - Jeweled neckline with twist treatment and empire waist.  (Also available in black.)

Dress #3 (above) - Black chiffon with one jeweled shoulder strap, waist detail and one chiffon short sleeve.


~*~

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Welcome back to Six Sentence Sunday.  :)  Thanks for stopping by again this week.

If you're new to Six Sentence Sunday, check out all the great excerpts from talented authors by clicking the link.

This week, I have more from my Golden Heart® finalist, The Outer Planets.  Lissa is just recovering from hypersleep on approach to Jupiter when she has second thoughts about the choices that led her here.  ("Bobby" is her late ex, Brigadier General Robert Bradley, for whom the ship was re-named.)

___________________________

God, what was she doing way out here, so far from home?

What had she been thinking?

She’d made her decision to join the mission—correction: rammed her decision down their throats—only five weeks before she’d arrived by shuttle. But instead of a brilliant solution, it now seemed another monumental mistake. In her case, knowledge wasn’t power, it was a death sentence. She knew secrets about Bobby that she wished with all her heart she’d never learned.

Friday, April 22, 2011

READY, SET, GMC: WHAT I LEARNED AS A CONTEST JUDGE


I knew this job wouldn’t be easy when I accepted it.

Take three 50-page entries and apply an objective set of criteria to them, give them each a score and provide their authors with feedback that was both constructive and relevant. I had volunteered as a judge in my local chapter’s annual writing contest, and I was going to have to use all my skills as a writer, an editor and a diplomat. After all, these manuscripts represented hours of the authors’ hard work—and more, their blood and tears. My snarky humor might not be received with the same enthusiasm with which it was delivered.

So with a very sober attitude I took red pen in hand to do my judicial duty. And not surprisingly I learned a few things.

First of all, these people were very good. Thank God they weren’t competing in my category. And secondly, judging your own manuscript by the criteria contest judges use is a great way to identify and fix the problem areas you may have missed.

We all know a manuscript should be free of spelling and grammatical errors. That’s the easy stuff. A good critique partner will help you tag the awkward sentences and the paragraphs that don’t work, the dialogue that doesn’t ring true or the major holes in the plot. But it takes a really stellar CP and a lot of vigilance on your own part to spot the underlying weaknesses that keep a good manuscript from being a great one, things like goals, motivation, conflict (GMC). The balance between the hero and the heroine. Characterization. Pacing.

The contest criteria insist that the judge give a grade to all of these things—in the first few pages of the novel. There’s no time to see if the hero gets more space later or if we learn more about the heroine in Chapter Four. If her motivation is not clear by the end of this sample, you’re done. If the judge can’t see what the hero and the heroine want or how this book is going to have any kind of conflict (between them, between them and the universe, whatever) by page 50 (or page 35, or, God help us, word 4000), then he or she must give a low score for GMC.

Of course, this translates directly to the real world in terms of how well we’re able to engage the reader in the first few pages, whether that reader be an agent, an editor, or someone picking up the book off the shelf. If the GMC is clear right away, then the reader will want to turn the page to find out how that conflict is resolved.

The same is true for every element examined by the criteria, so that those first few pages have to become a sort of microcosm of the book itself. Everything you want to do right throughout your manuscript, you have to do right on a smaller scale in that 50 pages. That means there can be no wasted words, no throwaways in that first couple of chapters. Everything has to count toward building character, explaining GMC, setting the pace, describing the place, creating the romance.

Of course, the argument could be made that your entire manuscript should be just that tight. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of focus. I do know that trying to meet the word count for a contest can be like being fitted for a new pair of glasses. You see the rough edges that need a trim everywhere.
It’s been an education in itself to see how these talented writers have risen to the challenge of meeting the contest criteria. Some do better than others. But I’m learning from them all. Being a judge has made me a better contestant—and a better writer.

Donna’s Journal

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

I’ve nearly finished my contest entry for the Tampa Area Romance Authors contest, due May 1. I only get 4000 words to show what I’ve learned as a contest judge in my Virginia chapter contest, and it’s a challenge! I just wish I’d had this experience to draw on earlier this spring.

I’m also starting to think about agent/editor meetings for the New York RWA conference. The list of agents and editors who will be taking pitches at the conference is posted on the RWA website (http://www.rwanational.org/) and is organized by area of interest. Several agents now list SF as an area of interest and may be worth checking out. Still no word on when the frenzied online grab for the coveted pitch slots with the agents and editors will be held. Watch the RWA site, or your chapter loop for the latest updates.

Discoveries
New authors, cool web sites, great resources, great workshops, great online sites!

My favorite SF site i09 (http://io9.com/) knows how hard it is to come up with a new alien beastie every week. Resident bloggers Charlie Jane Anders and Gordon Jackson come to the rescue with the helpful “How to Create a Scientifically Plausible Alien Life Form”, a blog on exobiology for writers. Get inspired by clicking here: http://io9.com/#!5784971/how-to-create-a-scientifically-plausible-alien-life-form.

Cheers,
Donna

Monday, April 18, 2011

Laurie's Journal

Happy Monday, all. I’ve had a productive weekend of revisions and I’m coming up for air just long enough to write my journal installment this week.


Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

My priorities:

1. Finish the revisions to The Outer Planets at Warp 11
2. Begin querying agents on P2PC

Over the weekend, I made a big dent in #1. I’ve cut nearly 3,000 words from the recent version of The Outer Planets (which has undergone a major tear-apart and put-back-together since I entered the Golden Heart). Today I’ll finish a full novel sweep, then start begin another sweep looking for “not absolutely essential and can be cut, condensed or changed” passages. Time to shine up that scalpel. The doctor is in.

And…I’m about to start #2 with P2PC, which is spiffed, spruced and ready to go. Very exciting! More next week!

Discoveries
New authors, cool web sites, great resources, great workshops, great online sites!

Anyone considering or involved in an agent search should read this wonderful blog from fellow Golden Heart finalist and LERA member, Bria Quinlan. It’ll help you put things in perspective, provide tips and suggest ways you organize your plan of attack. (Well, not literally “attack,” of course…there’s nothing more career-killing than turning into an agent stalker! Maybe I should say your 'plan of query'?)

Click here:  Advice for Your Agent Search


Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

Aha! It seems there is a down side to the e-book phenomenon. (We knew it was too good to be the fairytale it looked to be.) It *seems* some of the publishers are having difficulty tracking e-book sales, and including these sales in authors’ royalty statements.

With the explosion of e-books in recent months, this can range from troubling to disastrous for an author’s career. It definitely means less money in their pockets—money they legitimately earned.

New York, we have a problem.

There are dynamics at play that every author, writer, or writer-to-be needs to understand. There is an excellent and indepth article available by Kris Rusch that gives an overview of a rapidly-changing industry, the difficulty of staying profitable in these changing times, and how that’s affecting writers. It also lays down the groundwork for a plan and explains why the author won’t be pursuing this corrective action personally.

If you want to skip right to the chase on the Great Missing Royalty Puzzle, start with the paragraph that begins “Earlier this month, however...”

Kristine Katherine Rusch: The Business Rusch Royalty Statements


Bookshelf
Books we're reading and mini-reviews. Writers must read voraciously. Sometimes we find gems in the literary universe or sometimes certain elements of a book really speak to us (and our muses). Do we know about book giveaways? A big debut? We'll dish on those.

I got some yippable-wootness news via Heather Massey’s The Galaxy Express blog last week when she wrote an article on the coming SFR BLUE GALAXY by Diane Dooley. What’s so cool about it?

It’s an SFR told entirely from the male POV! (Yip! Woot!)

Now, where have you heard me lament on that topic before? Oh yeah…right here! Because P2PC (one of my 2011 Golden Heart® nominations) is also told entirely from the male POV.

So let's hear it for the boys!

*hugs BLUE GALAXY and Carina Press and Diane Dooley* I love you all!

BLUE GALAXY will be released in May 2011 and it will immediately move to the tippy-top of my Leaning Tower of TBR®. I hope to do an interview with Diane Dooley (a fellow Brigader, I might add) in the very near future.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read the blurb (not yet available on the Carina Press site, so also courtesy of Heather Massey and The Galaxy Express) you can go HERE.

Happenings
Events, conferences, cons as well as Facebook, Twitter and blog events.

Oh my, it looks to be an over-the-top and event-packed RWA conference in New York this June. I hope to be able to post a tentative schedule of affairs in an upcoming journal entry.

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna Hear, hear and your article: The Top Five Way to Guarantee Romance Readers Will Hate Your SFR Novel. For a small subgenre, SFR can be extremely diverse, but as writers, we can’t overlook the “R” in SFR. Otherwise, we’re writing to whole different market.

@Sharon  Bon Boomerang!  Looking forward to hearing about your trip!

Friday, April 15, 2011

TOP FIVE WAYS TO GUARANTEE ROMANCE READERS WILL HATE YOUR SFR NOVEL

We call it Science Fiction Romance. We're trying to attract romance readers. But let me tell you, sister, it is so easy to lose them. Let us count the ways:

5) Let the plot take over your book. KISS is not just a principle of politics. You should know you’re in trouble when you can’t reduce your story to one or two lines for that famous elevator pitch. If it has more subplots than a cemetery, maybe we’re talking series here. And if you need a diagram, two flowcharts, a playbook for the characters and color-coding to keep it all straight, call J. Michael Strazynski. I hear he’s pitching a sequel to Babylon 5 in Hollywood. Good luck to you both.

4) Give in to your burning desire to tell us “how things work”. This goes for the technology, the politics or the cultures of your brave new world, which you just can’t help but describe in endless, glowing passages (or endless, minute details, as the case may be). Doesn’t matter whether the info dump is “disguised” as dialogue: “Of course, the Ixtrbians were once a great and mighty race,” the professor said, “the rulers of four solar systems and traders in utopa and beiberite, before they contracted Itching Fever and . . .” Or interior monologue: Captain Soledad loved her P-245, loved the way it fit in her hand, the special light-absorbing carbonite plastifiber weighing no more than 2.5 grams. It took an ion charge at stations on the ship, but the charge lasted for eight hours and the sight had a range . . .” Or plain description: no, I won’t do that to you. I’m bored, too.

3) Make the heroine tougher than the hero. Back in the day, writers of Star Trek fan fiction were warned against the creation of the dreaded “Mary Sue”. Now, Mary Sue had many laughable qualities: she was inevitably young, beautiful and “plucky”, she could do anything—pilot the ship, hack a computer, conduct brain surgery—and she always drew Kirk’s eye, which, granted, was never hard to do. But the one unforgiveable characteristic of Mary Sue was that she was allowed to step in and save the day, which as we all know, was Kirk’s (or Spock’s or sometimes McCoy’s) legitimate job. The Enterprise was Kirk’s ship, after all.

Now here we have the opposite problem. Our heroine may be the captain of the ship. She may legitimately step in to save the day. However, she still risks the label of Mary Sue. Why? Because she’s young, beautiful and “plucky” (or more often “tough”), she can do anything—pilot the ship, hack the computer, conduct field surgery, if not brain surgery. And she always draws the hero’s eye. The question is, what the hell is left for him to do? In too many cases, our heroine is found snarling, “We don’t need no stinkin’ heroes.” The book then becomes an urban fantasy. In space.

2) Be extra creative with your place names, character names and bits of colorful language. We all know those aliens don’t speak English or any other language known to humans. But for the sake of the poor humans who must wade through your novel, please, please, please try just once to read the thing out loud before you impose it on the world. The reader can only stumble over a passage like this so many times before she tosses the book across the room and picks up a nice, relaxing copy of War and Peace: “Flaxztk!” Captain Soledad cursed. “It’s the Ixtrbian fleet coming out of warp at 154,000 klicks. Lieutenant Mverzb! Hit ‘em between the eyes with ion blasters, now! Then get us to spacedock on Schmernlab, quick!” Is it me or are we in the middle of Spaceballs?

And finally, the Number One way to guarantee romance readers will hate your SFR novel:

1) Forget the romance. Remember Number Three? Well, those heroes are vital if you hope to keep your romance readers. In a romance the relationship is just as important as any other element of your novel—it equals the plot, the science, the world-building and anything else. It is not all right to neglect this element, tacking it on as an afterthought, and still call your novel a romance. “She kissed him hard, wishing she could do more, then turned to the nav board,” does not constitute a love scene for romance readers. Yes, there can be all levels of heat in SFR, but some heat must be detectable. And don’t forget, to qualify as a romance, the lovers must end up happily ever after (HEA) or at least happy for now (HFN). Yeah, it’s a rule. Don’t like it, you can call your work "science fiction with romantic elements" and avoid all the trouble.

And that goes for all the other rules, too.


Donna’s Journal


Action!

Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

Revisions continue on Trouble in Mind, so any new work on the third book in the series, Fools Rush In, is on pause temporarily. I’m also starting preparation of my entry for this year’s Tampa Area Romance Authors contest, due May 1. The TARA contest was a lucky one for me last year (I won First Place for Unchained Memory), but the challenge will be trimming my shortest TIM entry by 1000 words for the requirements of this contest. Back to the computer for me!


I had to take my own advice on Number Two above after my daughter read my manuscripts and gave me some feedback. The names were making her stumble. It’s one of my own rules and I had (apparently) broken it! My critique partner had never raised the alarm since I usually read out loud to her and I had the pronunciation clear in my own head. (But then, she said, she’d always admired the way I named my characters. Her aliens would probably end up being named “Bob”, short for “Robert”. Good thing she writes historicals.)

Cheers,

Donna

Monday, April 11, 2011

Laurie's Journal

There’s been a lot (whew…maybe too much?) going on lately, which is why I missed my posting date yesterday. Sorry about that. I sat down to edit on Sunday afternoon and next thing I knew, it was after midnight. Not good for a person who gets up at 3:45 in the very dark a.m. *yawnsville*

Anyway, on with my entry this week…

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

From my priority list last week:

1. Finish the revisions to The Outer Planets at Warp 11
2. Begin querying agents on P2PC

I’ve arranged for a four-day weekend so I can completely focus on #1. Sorry laundry, dishes, bills, and housework, writing reigns supreme this weekend. No Six Sentence Sunday, hair appointments or other distractions. I need to fire up those warp engines and get TOP where it needs to be…even if that does seem to be halfway across the galaxy right now.

Meanwhile, I’m ready to start a query volley with P2PC.

It’s exciting being where I am, but nerve-wracking, too.

Discoveries
New authors, cool web sites, great resources, great workshops, great online sites!

I have a great promotion tip for you.

Mailchimp!

What the heck is that? I received two mailings this week that originated with this free newsletter service and had to check it out. Awesome. It will help you manage mailing lists, send out newsletters, organize campaigns and link it all to Facebook and Twitter. There’s a bit of a learning curve ahead, but the site is well organized and I’m looking forward to learning how it works via the tutorials and help sections. Check it out by clicking the link above.

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

Great Quotes for Writers:

“May the power of your dreams
carry you to places
beyond your imagination.”

--from a Leanin’ Tree greeting card


Bookshelf
Books we're reading and mini-reviews. Writers must read voraciously. Sometimes we find gems in the literary universe or sometimes certain elements of a book really speak to us (and our muses). Do we know about book giveaways? A big debut? We'll dish on those.

Lisa Shearin’s latest (book 5) is out in the amazing Raine Benares series that started with Magic Lost, Trouble Found continued in Armed & Magical, The Trouble With Demons and Bewitched and Betrayed. The latest? Con and Conjure. (Aren’t those titles brilliant!) Raine is back in all her snarky, sword-toting glory, and so is the hunky, magic-packing cop (Guardian) *sigh* Mychael and the brooding and mysterious reformed(?) dark mage, Tam. After a sizzling, steamy scene between Raine and Mychael in the last installment, I can’t wait to see where this story will lead now. And this from one who isn’t all that in to fantasy. Trust me, this series has enough action, twists, laugh out loud moments, and unexpected happenings to keep even this diehard SFR fan very well entertained.

I recently won a copy of Hope Ramsey’s debut novel, Welcome to Last Chance. It’s about a small town in South Carolina, or to be more specific, the motley inhabitants of the town and a few newcomers who wander in from by way of a 9:30 bus. This isn’t my normal sort of read, but the quirky story and occasional paranormal touches kept me turning pages. I was rather taken with good-man-in-bad-boy disguise, Clay, and the MCs eternal faith in manifesting her own positive destiny. (Which seems to work, in most cases.) But I have to be honest. I can’t wait to see if there will be a novel devoted to Clay’s tortured, police chief older brother, Stony.  Yeah, call it a serious crush.

Happenings
Events, conferences, cons as well as Facebook, Twitter and blog events.

Don’t get the whole Twitter thang? Even if you have an account and dabble from time-to-time, you still feel like you’re stumbling about in the dark? Welcome to Club Clueless. But there’s a cure. Check out Twitter 101: A Twitter Cheat Sheet brought to you via Aliza Sherman. Packed with great info and examples that will help you better understand this brave, new social networking phenom.

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna Loved your article on SF(R) in film, part 2. I am hopeful this popularity in SFR on the screen will translate to the print medium. Maybe, just maybe, it’s already happening?

@Sharon Hope you’re enjoying yourself in the sunny tropics. Looking forward to hearing about your trip!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Welcome back to Six Sentence Sunday.  I appreciate everyone who stops by each week to read my excerpts.  If you're just visiting for the first time, be sure to check out all the other great Six Sentence Sunday excerpt from very talented writers by clicking the link.

This scene takes place just as Lissa and Mitch have been revived from hypersleep.  They share a cubicle in the sleeper bays while awaiting the medical staff to assist them with recovery when Lissa becomes aware that Mitch is staring.
___________________________

She sensed Mitch’s eyes moving over her body. The sleeper outfit covered her breasts and hips, but left her midriff and long legs exposed, offering little more coverage than a bikini. She gave him a nervous glance and he averted his gaze.

Busted.

But it wasn’t like she hadn’t gotten an eyeful of his toned chest and other interesting landmarks before she’d gone into her sleeper.  She just wasn’t sure if his interest was purely physical or he suspected something.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Science Fiction Revival in Film, Part II

Aliens are invading your nearest multiplex. Mad scientists are stalking the aisles. And, if you’re not careful, some form of were-creature will have a paw in your popcorn before the summer is out. We’re in the midst of an SF revival in the theaters the like of which we haven’t seen since the days of THEM! and INVASION OF THE BODY-SNATCHERS.

Over half a dozen certifiable science fiction films are on movie screens nationwide right now, with a half dozen more due to hit screens this summer. Steven Spielberg will return to his SF roots as executive producer of SUPER 8 (J.J. Abrams directs), Harrison Ford straps on again in COWBOYS AND ALIENS and hordes of younger heroes leap onto the screen to beguile us in THOR, SUPERMAN, TRANSFORMERS, APOLLO 18 and on and on.

Dusting off those old screenplays, hmm? And well you might. Science fiction romance plays well on the screen—the good-looking hero and heroine fighting side by side, sexy banter providing some comic relief to the thrills and chills. Smart casting decisions give both date-night moviegoers something to look at. And a smart writer and director realize that balancing both sides of the story—romance and action—can keep lovers of both emotional fireworks and actual explosions happy. (In fact this is how all movies used to work, back when Hollywood made pictures for the whole family. The idea was to engage the audience emotionally and viscerally.)

AVATAR was a perfect example of this. The SF thrills and techie bells and whistles got the fanboys (and girls) into the theaters. The love story enthralled the moms and wives and girlfriends (and not a few guys, too, I’m sure). AVATAR was something every couple could agree on, and, like the best SF films, it had tremendous repeat business.

The problem is, this shared experience is not something that translates well to reading. (And please understand, these are stereotypes I’m talking about here, to make a point.) The guy who loves his thrill-a-minute action movie, if he reads at all, will likely choose to read only a thrill-a-page military thriller or crime novel or hard SF novel. The woman whose choice in movies runs to EAT, PRAY, LOVE, is going to read Eat, Pray, Love. She may read romance—historical, contemporary, even paranormal. But it is unlikely she will read hard SF, and it’s unlikely her action-loving husband will read romance. They only went to that AVATAR movie together because they each thought the other would be okay with it.

Would either of them read SFR? She might if it was packaged right. It would be a tough sell. He probably wouldn’t. He’s just a hard case.

I think that leaves us with a very small opportunity from all this interest in SF on the screen. We may be able to convince agents and editors that some of these old stereotypes are breaking down. The audiences that are filling these theaters must be made up of more than just fanboys and their significant others. (Or we can interest the fanboys and their SO’s in buying SFR. ComicCon, anyone?) Women, particularly young women, have their own interest in SF and SFR, as the SFR Brigade certainly attests.

One major opportunity that is reflected on the big screen appears to be in young adult fiction. Most of what we’re seeing onscreen is skewed to a younger audience—teens to barely legal adults. (This is nothing new, either. Remember I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF? THE BLOB?) Still, I have a limited tolerance for watching teenagers working out their individual angst in the midst of a world-threatening crisis. And, seriously, I’m supposed to believe Timothy Olyphant is the old guy in I AM NUMBER FOUR? Please. I know I’m ancient, but I’m not dead. (And have you seen Justified?)

At any rate, YA is a recognized full-blast trend in genre fiction these days. If you got it, flaunt it. I don’t think it necessarily translates to good things for SFR in general, but YA readers do seem to like SF, if that means anything.

And in the meantime, just keep writing. We may ride the wave, or it may come crashing down over our heads. But as my role model, Linda Howard, once said, you just have to follow the story. No matter where what shore it leads you to.



Donna’s Journal

Action!

Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

I returned briefly to the first draft of Fools Rush In, the third novel of my Interstellar Rescue series, this week and got a bit of work done. But a meeting with my critique partner sent me scurrying back to Trouble in Mind to eke out further revisions to that WIP. Linda is a tough task master, but I’m confident she’ll have all the emotional content right before I pass this on to Laurie, who’ll beat me over the head about verbiage and such. I actually thought I could write before these people got ahold of me.

Bookshelf

Books we’re reading and mini-reviews . . .

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Darynda Jones’s fabulous First Grave on the Right, which took the Golden Heart awards by storm two years ago. The novel is not SFR, but can be roughly classified as a paranormal-romantic suspense-urban fantasy-chick lit crossover. With a lot of snarky humor. So much snarky humor that I laughed out loud—a lot—while reading it. There is just no way to describe anything about the plot of this story of a PI-by-day-Grim Reaper-by-night without giving it away. You can see why this was either destined to cause a publishing sensation or be forever doomed to rejection hell. Fortunately for all of us, Darynda found an agent and an editor who were smart and brave enough to see her genius. The only objection I have is that all involved saw fit to end this book with a cliffhanger. They’re making us wait for the next book in the series (a la Karen Marie Moning’s Bloodfever series) to see what happens. Hate that!


Cheers, Donna

Monday, April 4, 2011

Laurie's Journal

Last time I hinted that I may have a ~*~ surprise! ~*~ for you this week. I do! But you’ll have to read on.

*waves plate of warm cookies in front of readers’ noses*

My theme for the week is “Thisssssss Close.”

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

As an author who had both hands and one foot already onboard a sleek little shuttle called Self-Publishing, the call(s) last Friday made me to hop back from the airlock so I could re-evaluate my options and reconfigure my trajectory plan. Nothing like pouring on the reverse thrusters in a hurry!

Since last Friday, I’ve been swept up in the force field called Golden Heartdom. I’ve been drafted into the ranks of the GH Class of 2011 (we who are yet unnamed, but hope to find a moniker at least half as good as the 2010 Unsinkables or the 2009 Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.) I’ve also been inducted into The Golden Network, a membership of past and present Golden Heart nominees and alumni that have formed their own RWA chapter. Now I’m rubbing elbows with some of the people who used to be my writing idols. (*blink, blink* Is this really happening?)

My education in the last week alone could fill volumes. So what’s next? I have two concurrent tasks:

1. Finish the revisions to The Outer Planets at Warp 11
2. Begin querying agents on P2PC

One of my fellow GH class just sent her first query and nabbed an almost immediate offer of representation from a big name agent! Yes, all that happened in the last week. I need to get busy!

The Squeeze
Writers are sponges when it comes to soaking up writing tips and tricks. Here's where we squeeze out our sponges for the week.

For anyone who is considering self-publishing, I’ve discovered there’s an easy shortcut around the baffling and intimidating process of getting your document ready to self-publish. This secret is called “document formatters.” I was just about to send my work to L.K. Campbell (remember, I was “thisssss close”) who has formatted over 400 e-books for both self-published authors and e-publishers, as well as small print publishers. Her rates are very reasonable and her turnaround time is somewhere in the "instantaneous" range. (Remember, document formatters are not editors. They correctly format your document to submit for self-publishing. Be sure your document has been fully edited and is ready to publish before submitting to a document formatter.) She will also format short stories. Definitely worth checking out to save yourself from a first-time self-publishing nightmare.

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

The Is Your Blog Easy to Love? article from The Bookshelf Muse is worth its weight in...well, er...it's worth a lot! YES! We’ve followed their advice and turned off the word verification and other stumbling blocks for the benefit and enjoyment of our readers.

Let us know you appreciate the gesture by chiming in with a comment. Really! We love hearing from you. We know you’re out there, you’re showing up on our scanners. :)

Great Quotes for Writers:

“A success isn’t someone who didn’t fail, it’s someone who didn’t quit.” -- Anonymous

Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts. -- Winston Churchill

Bookshelf
Books we're reading and mini-reviews. Writers must read voraciously. Sometimes we find gems in the literary universe or sometimes certain elements of a book really speak to us (and our muses). Do we know about book giveaways? A big debut? We'll dish on those.

Here’s my surprise. As I mentioned above, I came ohhhh soooo close to self-publishing.

Audience chants back: “How close were you?”

Thisssss close.


This fabulous cover for The Outer Planets was created by the enormously talented Amanda Kelsey of Razzle Dazzle Design. It was actually based on a spec cover, and when I saw it on Razzle Dazzle’s website , I sucked in my breath and whispered, “That’s Mitch and Lissa!”

I emailed Amanda to ask if she could do a couple of changes to the design. A few emails back and forth and I had this amazing end product. Of course, this may or may not be the “real” cover of The Outer Planets, depending what happens in the future, but I’m so proud of it that I wanted to share it with the world. Okay, the galaxy! 

It definitely says SF and R in bold letters, don't ya think? How do you like it?  Let me know in our (unmoderated, un-word verified) comments below.

Happenings
Events, conferences, cons as well as Facebook, Twitter and blog events.

We may have just witnessed the dawn of Mittenpunk on last week’s Six Sentence Sunday round. What’s Mittenpunk? It’s Steampunk that takes place in the winter. Has a new sub-subgenre just been born? Here’s the link to the original Mittenpunk Six Sentence Sunday post on Aislinn Kerry’s blog:

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna Loved your article on SF(R) in film. It does get the mental main power drive on line, doesn’t it? Best of luck with your entry in the Fool For Love. I gave this one a hard look, but decided things were too crazy last week to try to pull together an entry, too.

@Sharon  Special thanks for all the tips, tricks and feedback you've given over the last week.  It sure helps to have someone who's been through this craziness a couple of times before.  :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

A SCIENCE FICTION REVIVAL IN FILM? PART I

It started with AVATAR, a true Hollywood blockbuster that boasted shiny new technological marvels and the writing /directing talents of a proven creative and commercial talent, James Cameron. It continued with INCEPTION, which offered more techno-wizardry and Leonardo diCaprio in the lead role. Both films garnered rare Academy Award nominations for Best Picture from an industry notoriously inhospitable to science fiction.

Last year saw Clint Eastwood directing Matt Damon in HEREAFTER, and now it seems we can’t get enough of SF at the multiplex. Currently in theaters in my little town: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, I AM NUMBER FOUR, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, LIMITLESS, SOURCE CODE, PAUL, MARS NEEDS MOMS. Coming soon to a multiplex near you: APOLLO 18, TRANSFORMERS (who knows which one this is, but it starts on the moon), SUPERMAN (again), THOR (does that count? But who cares, the guy is HOT!), and—I can’t wait for this one—COWBOYS AND ALIENS, starring Harrison Ford.

Science fiction has always held its own in theaters, whether Godzilla is destroying Tokyo in the early ‘60’s, HAL is taking over the ship in 1968, Captain Kirk and Han Solo are warping in and out of hyperspace (sorry, mixed metaphor, but you get what I mean) in the 70’s and 80’s, dark urban visions of the future are prevailing in the ‘90’s or the new millennium is arriving with 3D and a fresh take on the genre. Except for a few years in the late ‘50’s, Hollywood’s standard line is that there will always be a small, but dedicated fan base for SF. As long as you don’t spend too much making the movie, you’ll come out all right.

Films like ALIEN blew that theory out of the water long ago. It didn’t hurt that SF fans tend to watch films over and over. And buy the tape. And the DVD. And the Blu-Ray. And download the thing from NetFlix. We’re obsessive like that. Then AVATAR came along and HEREAFTER and somehow SF is now “legitimate”. I guess if Clint Eastwood says so, it is.

So we’re in the midst of an SF film revival right now the likes of which we haven’t seen since the days of FORBIDDEN PLANET. Even the film critics are noticing the trend. Not sure, but that may mean it’s not long for this world.

Be that as it may, I’ve dutifully checked out the latest offerings so I can report to you, my faithful readers, and save you the $10 wherever possible. I’m happy to say most of what’s out there is not embarrassingly clich├ęd, although I wouldn’t go to the multiplex looking for fresh ideas. I haven’t yet had a chance to see SOURCE CODE, so I’ll withhold judgment; suffice it to say that this idea has been done before onscreen (twice recently that I can think of), so Jake Guyllenhal will have to go a ways to outdo Denzel Washington and Nicholas Cage.

The best of the bunch has to be THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. Not only does it star Matt Damon, but the premise is based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick. New Age SF writer Dick’s prolific output has been adapted many times for the screen (BLADE RUNNER, TOTAL RECALL, MINORITY REPORT). Though he produced the bulk of his work in the 1960’s, he seemed to have his finger on the pulse of our post-millennial paranoia, and this story is no exception. The hero gets a glimpse behind the curtain of the illusion that is his life. Motivated by love, he challenges “the way things must be”. And, in the end, he wins.

Dick was seldom so optimistic. His endings are ambiguous at best, and several reviewers have faulted this film for allowing the romance to take over the story. I say lighten up. Do the bad guys have to win for us to think the film has worth? The questions of fate and free will, love and sacrifice, self and the greater good are still just as valid and more important, really, than the rather contrived ending. Few films even address these issues (I mean, what was BLACK SWAN about, anyway?), so it’s a plus when you have the opportunity to think about them in the context of entertainment.

You might also be tempted to list BATTLE: LOS ANGELES in the category of pure mindless entertainment. The film is structured in classic war-movie style, introducing the warriors pre-battle, following them through the adventure and high drama of battle and death, creating a feeling of shared camaraderie with our “unit” as we go through the film. We laugh with them as they bond, are horrified with them as they see the alien enemy for the first time, cheer with them as they defeat the inhuman monsters that are invading our homeland. Oo-rah! Hey, wait a minute! Could this be . . . yeah, it is. Science fiction masquerading as propaganda. We’ve seen it before. Remember STARSHIP TROOPERS?

Now I come from a military family—father and two brothers in lifetime service to our country. Three men, three different decades, three wars. My grandson’s father is serving in Iraq right now. So believe me when I say I have nothing but respect for our men and women in uniform, and I do believe there may be a legitimate time and place for military action.

Certainly the set up for BATTLE: LOS ANGELES seems to be that time and place. The aliens give us Earthlings no warning and no other choice. It is fight or die. Okay, I get that. The scale of the film is down to what happens to this one squad of Marines. They don’t set policy. I get that, too. What bothers me is one little line in the middle of the film that seems to indicate where the filmmakers are coming from ideologically. Everyone is holed up in a shattered police station with several civilians, trying to find a way to get back to the main base. An injured man is talking about his eight-year-old son. “You know,” he says with a grim laugh, “when they first came, he thought we should talk to them. Funny, right?”

Just like that the whole idea of diplomacy is dismissed. Yeah, who cares what they want or where they come from. Just shoot the bastards. The problem is, we have way too many people who would like to conduct our foreign policy the same way. IMHO. Next week I’ll address what the revival in the theaters may mean for readers—and writers.



Donna’s Journal

Action!

Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

I’ve been working on my entry for the Virginia Romance Writers Fool For Love contest all this week. The deadline is midnight tonight (for all you slackers out there—VRW is still looking for Paranormal entries!). The nice thing about the VRW-FFL is that you’re allowed 50 pages, which seems like a luxurious amount after the mere 5000 words (about 20 pages) of the Daphne du Maurier contest. The bad thing is that I had to do another bleeping synopsis (this one five pages long). At least I got to include the subplots!

I may be seeing how the other half lives soon, since I’ve volunteered to help judge the FFL this year. Not sure how much I’ll be able to say about that here, but the process should be interesting. I know I’ll have a lot more sympathy for those who are judging me after I share their pain!


Discoveries

New authors, cool web sites, great resources, great workshops, great online sites!

Certainly the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood website is not a new one to readers of this blog, but I had another reason to check the Sisters out this week. Suspecting that I might be moping around my house after last Friday, (gee, why would she think that?), my wonderful blog partner and friend Laurie let me know that the Sisterhood had a special event going on for those of us who had not finaled in the Golden Heart contest. Members of the Sisterhood shared their stories of the years they had not finaled, of ups and downs and ins and outs, both with the contest and with their careers. And they gave away chocolate!! And gift cards on Amazon.com, one of which I won (and used to purchase an e-copy of Marcella Burnard’s RITA-nominated Enemy Within).

Though the giveaways are done, I strongly recommend the post to everyone, contestants, aspirants, winners and all. It is wonderfully encouraging and supportive, with just the right touch of sardonic humor. Check it out at http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/.


Cheers, Donna

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.