Monday, January 30, 2012

Living With World-Changing Prophecy

Mission Success
Laurie's Journal

Something's coming. Something BIG!

Or not.

Lately I've been living a sort of immersion scenario while I work on my third novel and reflect on the current uneasiness in our culture surrounding an upcoming date on our calendar.

Let me explain...

Living With World-Changing Prophecy

2012

We're living in a time where our world has gone edgy with expectation.

Many cultures of the past--the Mayan, the Hopi, the Chinese, and others--have all hinted that on one particular date in the future something big is going to happen. Many researchers agree they are all pointing to the same date--December 21, 2012.

12-21-12

Eleven months from now.

No one really knows exactly what will happen, only that an ancient calendar comes to an abrupt end on that particular date.

Some forecast doom and gloom in the eerily prophetic Mayan calendar--a calendar that has supposedly marked every major astronomical event for eons. Its terminus has been put forth by some to correlate to an energy surge from alignment with the galactic rift, a polar shift, intense solar flares, impact by a stray comet or errant asteroid, a direct hit from a gamma ray burst, an overdue supervolcanic eruption, shut down of the ocean conveyor and the inevitable instant ice age, or the mysterious planet X that's supposedly going to swoop in from the edges of our solar system, gallop through the orbital planes of the inner planets to collide with Earth.

Some believe it will be a change for better, for enlightenment, for the next step in human evolution.

And then there's the school of thought that nothing is going to happen at all. It's just going to be another date on the calendar.

After all, how can an ancient society predict what's going to happen in the future--long after their civilization has ceased to exist? How can they know?

There's actually a precedence for that, according to some researchers. They're studying a sudden spike in global consciousness the morning of September 11, 2001, hours before the events of that day actually occurred. They claim random event generators can predict catastrophes that are yet to happen. [Read more.] Are they quacks, or is there really a way to tap into a global consciousness and "see" events that are yet to happen? Are some people wired to tune in to the future?

Was Nostradamus a prophet who predicted the rise of Hitler and other upheavals in history, or merely a very clever creator of enignatic words with symbolism that could be interpreted or twisted in any way to mean anything a person chooses?

The Great Prophecy of Draxis

In my third novel, Draxis, the people of this fictional society are living with a prehistoric prophecy that might be coming true. And just like the theories surrounding 2012, many are jittery and fearful. They aren't sure if the change that's foretold will result in annihilation, or glorious evolution...or if anything will happen at all.

The Great Prophecy was written by a philosopher-visionary named Hamaden Sarcassius sometime around 9,000 BC by our time scale, the text carefully preserved for over twelve thousand years.

Who Sarcassius really was is lost to the centuries. Heck, maybe he was a mad. Or maybe he had ulterior motives for penning his prophecy. Or maybe--just maybe--he had the gift of vision and sent a dire warning to his race across a great expanse of time that something was coming--something the Draxians needed to prepare for.

The events of the Great Prophecy center around a person identified only as "the Flame," who according to the scripts will make a single decision that will destroy or "turn" their world.

The novel opens as the one who many believe may be "the Flame" wakes up on Draxis after being abducted, drugged and hurled through space and time to be thrust into this maelstrom of fear and fanaticism spurred by her arrival.

The parallels between the Draxian empire and our present day culture are easily drawn. Two societies living with the fear, apprehension, skepticism and denial surrounding a world-changing prophecy and the potential Armageddon it portends. Or doesn't.

No one on Draxis really knows what the words of Sarcassius mean.

And no one on Earth really knows what the end of the Mayan calendar indicates.

We live in interesting times.

Write what you know.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Announcements!

We have two big announcements to make.

First, Pippa Jay has joined us as a regular contributor. She's been guest blogging with us lately, and we're so pleased to have her join our Spacefreighters crew!  Welcome, Pippa!

And second, we've just hit a major milestone.  35,000 hits!!! We'll be putting our heads together to plot a fun event for our 50,000 hit, which we're estimating will happen sometime in the May-June time frame. Check back for news.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Guest Blogger Pippa Jay: A Newbie's Guide to Surviving First Edits

I'd like to welcome guest blogger Pippa Jay, who will soon be a new author with Keir, a SFR coming from Lyrical Press. Today, Pippa shares some valuable insights into surviving a first round of edits, always a humbling experience in the path to becoming published.
~*~
A Newbie’s Guide to Surviving That First Ever Set of Edits

1. Whatever happens, DON’T PANIC! Take a deep breath. Look them over. If necessary, walk away. Have a coffee/tea/beverage of your choice. When you’re ready, go back and look through them again.Read through carefully. If it’s too daunting, start with a few of the simpler fixes. Ridding yourself of a few pages of tracking changes with nothing more than a few odd errors in punctuation, word choice, grammar etc. can make it seem less overwhelming.

2. Your editor is NOT your enemy. On the contrary, they could be your greatest ally. If you’re struggling with the changes/rewrites, they will often brainstorm or offer further suggestions and encouragement. Or if you’ve made a big change and you aren’t sure if you’ve gone too far/far enough, get their advice. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help. And if you don’t think you’re going to make the deadline, let them know as soon as possible.

3. Don’t let the suggested changes get you down. They are generally exactly that - suggestions. What your editor feels will really improve your work and make it more marketable. They have the advantage of coming in fresh to your work and can spot any plot holes, inconsistencies or errors that could have been missed by beta readers. But writing is very subjective, so discuss any issues you have with your editor.

4. Do not rant at your editor. It’s rude, unprofessional and could earn you the reputation of being a difficult author that no one will want to work with. They are just doing their job. If you feel the need to let off steam, do so to your BFF, crit partner, spouse etc. Don’t blow your writing career on the first book.

5. Don’t be afraid to argue your point. If you really feel that strongly about something, or you feel it’s essential, then say so. Your editor and publisher are experts in their field, but only you really know your characters and your story. One comment that came out in my edits was that it seemed odd my female MC had had so few relationships in her lifetime. My answer - she’s just not that kind of girl!

6. But do be prepared to compromise. With this being my first experience of the whole process, I’ve probably accepted a lot more of the changes than I would in future (although hopefully I’ve also learned to make fewer mistakes too!). Try to be objective when looking at the changes and don’t take them as a personal attack.

7. Stay offline. Unless you’re talking things over about your MS or doing some research. It’s just too much of a distraction.

8. You will feel better at the end. It’s a cathartic experience, but afterward I felt the story was much stronger. To be honest, even after all the work I put into my MS there were still things that niggled me about it when I submitted it. I don’t feel that now. My editor may have kicked my behind from one end of my book to the other, but I appreciate the effort she put into it and the support she gave me throughout.

9. Don’t think that’s the end! Chances are that you will spend at least a couple of weeks batting the MS between you and your editor until the copy edits are done and you’re both happy.

If anyone has anything else to add, please do so in the comments. Some of these are things I wish I’d been told before my first set of edits arrived, and others are from things I’ve heard in the publishing world that should or shouldn’t be done. If you thought getting your book contracted was the end of it, you’ve a shock coming. Just remember to breathe. J

Outcast. Cursed. Dying. Is Keir beyond redemption?


For Keirlan de Corizi--the legendary 'Blue Demon' of Adalucien--death seems the only escape from a world where his discolored skin marks him as an oddity and condemns him to life as a pariah. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise: Tarquin Secker, a young woman who can travel the stars with a wave of her hand.


But Quin has secrets of her own. She's spent eternity searching through space and time with a strange band of companions at her back. Defying her friends' counsel, Quin risks her apparent immortality to save Keir. She offers him sanctuary and a new life on her home world, Lyagnius.


When Keir mistakenly unleashes his dormant alien powers and earns instant exile from Quin's home world, will she risk everything to stand by him again?

A stay-at-home mum of three who spent twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metal and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay bases her stories on a lifetime addiction to science-fiction books and films. Somewhere along the line a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. She spends the odd free moments between torturing her characters trying to learn guitar, indulging in freestyle street dance and drinking high-caffeine coffee. Although happily settled in historical Colchester in the UK with her husband of 18 years, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head. Keir is her first full-length novel, a science-fiction romance being released 7th May 2012 through Lyrical Press Inc. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mission Success: Laurie's Journal

OMG, I've Evolved!

For years I've wondered about people who were so in to their cats. Granted, cats are cool, but IMFHO (In My Former Humble Opinion) [heh heh Not what you thought that stood for?] dogs left cats in their stardust as family pets. But even then I wasn't living a totally cat-less life. We had an assortment of barn cats to keep down the rodent population in the outbuildings (and thus, the rattlesnakes) and my DH had two cat companions where he was deployed at a military base about 400 miles away (who regarded me as an occasional guest in their home).

But I wouldn't have a cat in my house (I vehemently declared). Or more to the point, I wouldn't have a litter box in my house.

Then my DH retired, came home from deployment and brought his two calico kitties with him. Hello! Can you say lifestyle change. I learned how to live with litter boxes. Fast.

I started to begrudgingly agree that, okay, yeah, it was kind of cool to have a couple of feline residents join the household. Took me awhile to adjust to the bright green eyes staring down from the top of the refrigerator when I got the milk out in the morning, or furry beasties sprawling out across my bed like they owned the joint...but I adapted.

Then our female barn cat--aptly named Momcat--had a litter of seven kittens. She's black, the tomcat is black, five of the kittens were black, and the last two?  The most gorgeous little lilac-point kittens I'd ever seen. Where they came by their receptive and decidedly Siamese coloring was baffling, but one thing was clear--these little guys weren't going to survive the barn cat environs. Their light coloring meant the coyotes would zero in on them like they were ringing the dinner bell.

So once the babies hit eight weeks old, they were relocated to the house, too. I was now a non-cat person with four cats in my house. Okay, time to concede a point. By that point I was no longer a non-cat person.

We've since found a wonderful home for the male lilac-point, and are now a happy household of two humans, three cats and one desperately outnumbered mini-longhaired dachshund (who the kitten has adopted as her bestest friend in the whoooole world). Yeah. I'm a willow, I can bend.

Off the topic (but desperately grasping at a chance to somehow relate this to our general spacey theme), of our three house cats, two carry decidedly SFR inspired names. Serenity--no explanation necessary--and Saybin, the kitten, a namesake for a character in my novel, P2PC, is in keeping with the S theme in cat names. (The third is named Sugar.)

The point of my rambling? Sometimes change is good. Sometimes we get things in our heads that we're dead set against when a little change might do us (or our manuscripts) good. Sometimes we have to be willing to see things in a different light and make some revisions in our thinking that we never thought we'd make. Change can be a catalyst for growth. I'm not real big on change, but learning to adapt has been a good thing--both in life and in my writing career.

Update on My Progress

This spring I have two major goals--to get The Outer Planets and Draxis to market draft stage before July.  The Outer Planets isn't that far away from being ready to shop, but Draxis needs a major overhaul. The good news is the story is complete and I have a good handle on what needs to be revised, streamlined and trimmed. It's a very exciting prospect that I might be going to RWA Nationals with three...count'em three...marketable manuscripts (*heavy breathing*).  Or...dare I say it?...even a sale before I arrive. (*hyperventilates*)

Meanwhile, I'm awaiting some news on a submission of my first novel, P2PC, with great anticipation.

Ping Pong


Donna posted an excellent blog on the controversy surrounding SOPA--the Stop Online Piracy Act--which smashed headlong into a resistant front in recent weeks, which included a blackout of Wikipedia, Google dressing it's icon in black, and many who formerly supported the bill as a way to address the unfair theft of authors' royalties via online piracy sites pulling their support. Most had to concede that although the bill had great intentions, it went way, way too far.  Locking down the free exchange of information on the internet would certainly not be a benefit for anyone.


Sharon is wrapped up in preparation for release of her Tor novel, Ghost Planet. Only 312 more days to her debut launch according to our countdown clock! Woohoo!


Happenings in the Lounge

Author Pippa Jay will be guest blogging this week about surviving the first round of edits, a stumbling block and reality check for many new authors.  We're looking forward to hosting her!


We'll be reaching a major milestone for Spacefreighters Lounge in the next few weeks. Stop back for more news. 



Friday, January 20, 2012

THE DARK SIDE OF FREE FLOW

As readers and writers of science fiction, we are more familiar than most with the double-edged sword of technology. Every bright, shiny new toy casts a dark shadow, because humans invented it and, most of all, humans play with it.

So, we love our instant access to information through the Internet, the answers to every question at our fingertips through Wikipedia and Google, the chance to connect with friends and family through Facebook, to catch up on missed episodes of our favorite shows through Hulu or davidletterman.com. Ooooh, shiny!

But to all of this there is a dark side: websites like megaupload.com, for example, that steal content from legitimate copyright owners—authors like you and me, moviemakers, television producers, musicians—copy it and make it available to others for a fee without paying anything to the people whose sweat went into creating that content. U.S. prosecutors just shut down the site and arrested four of megaupload’s criminal masterminds in New Zealand, charging them with copyright infringement, racketeering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to news reports, several of megaupload’s “sister” sites were also involved in distribution of child pornography and terrorism videos.

The organization behind megaupload is said to have defrauded copyright holders of some $500 million in legitimate earnings. It is only one of hundreds of such sites stealing from content producers every day—every minute—on the Internet. Prosecutors have limited weapons with which to fight them. (Note that megaupload was charged with old-school racketeering, and only because they used U.S.-based servers for some of their work.)

Those of you lucky enough to have published books online have almost no recourse at all against piracy of your work. Anyone, anytime can take a downloaded file, upload it to a “file-sharing” site, and your work is available free to anyone else who wants it. Of course, copyright law prevents such a thing, BUT THERE ARE NO SANCTIONS FOR ANYONE WHO DOES IT. You can spend hours out of every day chasing these thieves down and “asking” them to remove your work from their sites. They may or may not do it, depending on how they feel. All those hours of blood, sweat and tears that it took you to produce your work, and you get nothing for it.

That’s why many of us in the publishing world greeted introduction of legislation in Congress to put a stop to online piracy with hope. The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act in the Senate were the first attempts to craft some sort of response to the rampant rip-offs taking place all over the Internet. Much of the media attention to the bills focused on the threat of piracy to the movie and music industries, and, indeed, the bills had the support of the Motion Picture Association and the smaller Creative America nonprofit association of industry workers.

But the legislation was just as important to those of us who hope to gain from the revolution represented by digital publishing. Without some sort of real handle on piracy, epublishing—either by an online house or self-publishing—will never be truly equivalent to traditional publishing. After all, there is little danger that some burglar will pull up to a warehouse and steal 20 percent of your inventory of paperbacks before they are sold. Or hit your publisher’s accountant in the head and take 30 percent of your earnings. But there is every possibility that an online thief will upload your book and take a huge chunk of your potential earnings from you. And the better your book is, the more potential there is for theft.

Our hope for some help from this legislation was short-lived, however. Howls of “censorship!” from some of the cyber-industries' biggest dogs put an instant stop to the efforts of Congress to do something about online piracy. Google and Wikipedia led the way with protests last week, but most online big names chimed in, claiming SOPA and PIPA would clap the Internet in the irons of censorship. Really? I had no idea Google and Wikipedia relied so much on pirated information. Maybe, naively, I thought most of what I was reading (and using) was uploaded with permission by the authors themselves. Maybe I’ll go back to using the freakin’ library.

Or maybe the people who run Google and Wikipedia could take a look at this problem and become part of the solution. If SOPA and PIPA go too far, as they say, then they should take a hand in crafting new legislation that gets rid of the bad guys, while preserving aspects of information sharing that are legitimately useful. (I still know how to use a card catalog, but—do they even still have card catalogs?)

Because we have to get rid of the bad guys. Congress has now canceled its vote on the bills, SOPA has been withdrawn, but Congressional leaders still seem open to examining the issue. With everyone working on it, perhaps we can come up with something sensible.

As the parent of any toddler knows, too much freedom is just as bad as none at all. And as I believe Thomas Hobbes once said, a life without a social contract is “nasty, brutish and short”. Living on the dark side is no way to live.

Information for this posting drawn from an article by Eric Engleman and Laura Litvan, Bloomberg.com

Donna’s Journal

What can I say? It’s January, it’s cold and dark, and progress is slow. This quote says it all:

Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.
--Agatha Christie


Cheers, Donna

Monday, January 16, 2012

Laurie's Journal: Mission Success

Over the holidays, I haven't had big chunks of time to write, but I did devote some head time to a short story idea. It seems a lot of my peers have been writing shorts, where my ideas always seem to morph into 100,000 plus word novels. This will be a real test to see if I can tell a story in one tenth the word count, about 10-15K.

Meanwhile, I have one glowing iron in the fire with the submission of a full manuscript of P2PC to a publisher. Hopefully I'll have more news on that front soon.

Yesterday, Spacefreighters Lounge sponsored author Jenna McCormick in the last stop on a blog tour to celebrate the release of her Kensington novel, NO LIMITS in both print and digital versions. Her post explained how her success is a good thing for all SFR writers and authors, A Win For Us All. And it's so true. And I'm thrilled to report that NO LIMITS has become a Canadian bestseller, rising all the way to #22 on the erotica list at last report. It's exciting and awesome news for the SFR community.

Pitch Tournament

This past week, I hosted a new sort of competition on the SFR Brigade main blog. It was a Pitch Tournament. What's that?  Eighteen authors entered 24 blurbs in a fun competition to receive comments and readers feedback on the effectiveness of their SFR pitches or blurbs. Readers voted for their three favorites in each of three initial heats with seven finalists advanced into a championship round--two from two heats and three from a third that had a voting tie.

The pitches were open to any Science Fiction Romance work--whether published, manuscript or WIP, of any length. As host, I couldn't enter, but I did learn a lot from reading the entries and seeing how voters responded.

The event was a resounding success with over a hundred comments, almost 700 votes and over 2,150 visitors to the blog. The eventual top three winners--in order of votes received--was Tethered (WIP) by Pippa Jay, The Warlord's Comeuppance by Gail Koger, and Knight Medieval (Time Travel/SFR) by Kaye Manro. If you'd like to see the pitches, stop by SFR Brigade and click on the links on the upper right sidebar.

The winner, Pippa Jay, is scheduled to be a guest blogger here on Spacefreighters Lounge on Wednesday, so be sure to stop back and read what she's learned on her journey to publication. Her first novel, KEIR, will be available this spring from Lyrical Press.

Cover Scouting

Thinking forward to the day I'm actually published, I've started devoting more thought to cover art. I've been keeping my radar tuned for covers that really appeal to me, and stumbled on a few that I would have loved to snag for my my work. But alas. Best I can do is share them with you.

P2PC is the story of Sair, a man on the run from a galactic superpower that's out to recover him as owned property.  He negotiates passage with a private female space courier and his choice ends up being a very wrong one--or a very right one. Specter is no ordinary cargo ship, and her captain is headed straight into the vortex of hell. His heart is telling him it's a hell he should chance to stay with her...but he carries secrets even her mindprobe can't uncover. Secrets that may tear them apart and leave Sair in her path of destruction.

If I had to chose a cover that already existed, I'd love to have Zoe Archer's COLLISION COURSE.

The physical attributes, dress and expressions of the characters--wary, guarded-- are close to perfect, along with the wonderful space ambiance of the ships in the foreground.

I love how at one glance it says SFR. There's no mistaking this novel as Urban Fantasy or any other genre. And there's a certain grittiness there in between the lines of the technology that fits the story to a "T."  (By the way, I'm currently reading COLLISION COURSE and so far it's been one impressive read. Last I checked it was only $1.99 on Amazon.)

Draxis is the story of a contemporary female hurled through space and time and thrust into an alien civilization that is, in truth, not so alien. Draxis is a planet with technology that's both far more advanced than Earth, but in other ways far behind it. Laws and religion have molded a unique society with traditions and taboos that are at odds with their technological capability. And Katrina, the heroine, may be the key to their future, or lack of one, if a 12,000 year old prophecy is to be believed.

The cover of IN HER NAME: EMPIRE by Michael Hicks is enough to make me salivate. The color, the drama, the suggestion of mystery, tradition and history--it's all there. Simply dazzling. (In exchange for "borrowing" Mr. Hicks gorgeous cover, the least I can do is mention that the Kindle version of IN HER NAME is currently available for free on Amazon.)

I haven't yet found a cover that would easily represent The Outer Planets. There aren't that many Near Future SF or SFRs on the market. The cover I had commissioned (while on the verge of self-publishing) is attractive and captures the soul of the story, but I've been told it suggests an erotica story, which it clearly is not.  Putting Mitch--the hero--in uniform might be a simple fix.

This story takes place on a planetary research vessel bound for Jupiter and Saturn circa 2040. The heroine, hiding behind a new identity and altered features, brings a dark secret on board only to face the one man from her past who could blow her cover--and take back her heart. But she's not the only crew member aboard who carries a dangerous secret.


Maybe you've seen a cover that might work for The Outer Planets?  Let me know.

My Most Admired Writer


As a writer, I'm often asked who I most admire as a writer. I surprise people when I name Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of those who inspire me. The typical response is, "He wasn't a writer." Wasn't he? 


True, his writing was defined by his speeches, letters and sermons rather than bestselling books, but does that disqualify him? A writer evokes powerful thoughts, feelings and emotions through their prose, by arranging words in such a way that anyone who hears or reads them has a mental or emotional response. The words transcend politics and religious beliefs--even if you happen to be at polar opposites with the individual--and speak directly to the heart. See if you agree that this work qualifies:


"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that...The chain reaction of evil -- hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars -- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." Strength To Love, 1963


"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth...Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967


"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." I Have A Dream, 1963


"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”


“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”

Hope you enjoy your MLK, Jr. holiday.



Sunday, January 15, 2012

NO LIMITS with Guest Author Jenna McCormick

Spacefreighters Lounge is very happy to host guest blogger Jenna McCormick today for the last stop on her NO LIMITS Blog Tour. NO LIMITS is an exciting new SFR/erotica novel published by Kensington and available in print and digital formats.

Congratulations on your exciting new release, Jenna, and welcome to Spacefreighters Lounge!

A Win for All of Us
Jenna McCormick

Thanks so much to Laurie Green for hosting me! I’m a big believer in teamwork. Though I’m an introvert by nature, I believe success depends not just on the hard work of one person but having a great network of people who can pump you up when you’re about to drop and cheer you on when you succeed.

When I first sold No Limits, to Kensington last February, my thoughts went something like, holy Terellian Tuesday, Batman! They bought my freaking nano (National Novel writing month) book! And then I had to get right down to work rewriting that book, because it was, after all a nano book. Characters dissolved into the veil, and other’s changed in all but name. And when I finally had thirty seconds to think about something other than gutting the book, I thought, this is wicked awesome for the sci fi romance community.

Having another SFR novel out there is bigger than having just my book published. It’s a well-executed strike in favor of SFR readers worldwide who are looking for a new book to read. It’s hope for that struggling SFR writer who sees the announcement that my futuristic erotic romance was bought by Kensington and pushes through the doubt to finish her own novel. And it’s even a bridge to maybe induct a few more readers who wouldn’t necessarily pick up an SFR, but maybe, just maybe, enjoys the heck out of it and then starts looking for more like it. Which leads to more sales of SFR books already out there, which leads to more contracts offered to SFR writers and on and on it goes.

Okay, so I’m an idealistic sap, but those were my thoughts. I’m excited— no ecstatic—when I hear about another SFR sale, no matter who the publisher because it truly is a win for us all. It’s why I’m going all out for this blog tour and pushing this book like an Intergalactic Pimp. So I can sell another and so I can read a bunch more. Spread the word, SFR is the wave of the future and we should celebrate every victory together!

No Limits
Jenna McCormick
Now Available for Kindle, Nook, and wherever books are sold.

All Genevieve Luzon wants is to be loved by one man, a seemingly impossible task in New-New York City at the start of the twenty second century. Sure, she can buy sex as easily as order a pizza on a Friday night, but finding a forever kind of love among her self-centered peers is no easy feat for the unemployed off-world vacation coordinator. When an old friend offers her the position of secret shopper to test out the male prostitutes, Gen can’t think of a good reason to refuse. Hell, if she can’t find Mr. Right, she might as well try on a sampler of Mr. Right Nows.

Yet the perks of her new position don’t compare to the strange attraction she has, not for one of the prostitutes, but a candle that seems to warm places of her she never knew existed. When a man appears out of the flame, Gen is sure she's found the one. Rhys is an empath, made a slave by the Illustra Corporation and he’s everything Gen could ever want. Except available. Because Rhys is on a mission. One that might claim his life. He must try to free his people, consequences be damned. Now, Gen must choose between turning her back on the only man she’s ever loved and the monumental task he has set for himself. Should she risk her life fighting a war hidden from polite society against those who wish to control us all?

Is love really worth fighting for?
_____________________________________


I’ll give away one ebook copy of no limits (Kindle, Nook) to a random commenter. And join me for the No Limits Blog Tour and a chance to win a KINDLE FIRE!

~~~ * ~~~

Friday, January 13, 2012

JOHN CARTER: A HERO IN PULP FICTION OR CGI

This past week for the fare of a mere $0.99, I took a trip back in time. I came across a title in the Amazon Kindle store and pounced on it with delight, and soon I was back in the halcyon days of dime novels, when science fiction was still in its infancy, its heroes and heroines, its villains and landscapes and tropes still being shaped by its earliest authors.

The title was The Adventures of John Carter of Mars, a collection of five of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Barsoom” novels. The first of these, A Princess of Mars, appeared in novel form for the first time in 1917 (it had been serialized in magazine form starting in 1911) and serves as the basis for the upcoming Disney film JOHN CARTER, due out in March.

In John Carter we find the prototype for hundreds of action heroes to follow—from Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers of the 1930’s serials, to Jim Kirk and Han Solo in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, to AVATAR’s Jake Sully—with a few interesting additions: Carter is immortal (a fact he never understands, or explains), and the battle-weary survivor of the American Civil War. He arrives on Mars through a form of astral projection occasioned by his first apparent “death”, and returns to Earth the same way. And though Burroughs’s matter-of-fact, all-action, all-the-time style allows for very little angst on the part of his hero, Carter’s aversion to war does play a part in the story.

Like Burroughs’s better-known hero, Tarzan, Carter is a lover, as well as a fighter, and not for nothing is the first book in the series entitled A Princess of Mars. In the course of his adventures, Carter falls in love with, and later marries (!), the princess of the title, Dejah Thoris of Helium. So we can place Burroughs squarely in the science fiction romance camp: the lovers meet within the first few chapters, the romance takes equal precedence with the SF and . . . well, I’m not sure about the ending yet.

Burroughs and his Barsoom series occupies a place in the history of SF between the steam-driven fantasy of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and the darker post-WWI, pre-WWII Golden Age of editors Hugo Gernsback and John Campbell. In that fantastic place, our nearest planetary neighbor harbors a world of bygone wonders, monstrous violence and the very human characteristics of greed, lust for power and dominance over the natural world (themes that Burroughs also explored in his Tarzan series). It is a place of marvelous, almost innocent, imagination.

John Carter of Mars has appeared many times in comic form, beginning almost as soon as the novels appeared. The Disney organization first approached Burroughs about bringing Carter to the screen in 1937 as an animated feature. If that project had gone forward, it would have been the earliest animated full-length feature ever. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES must have seemed like a better bet for family fare, and it got the nod instead.

Now, finally, we’ll get a chance to see the Green Men of Mars, the faithful Woola, the “incomparable” Dejah Thoris and all the decaying glory of Mars onscreen as part of JOHN CARTER. “Friday Night Lights” bad boy Taylor Kitsch plays the title role, with Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, Willem Dafoe as Thark leader Tars Tarkas and supporting players Mark Strong, Thomas Hayden Church and Samantha Morton. Using a combination of live action, motion capture and CGI, director Andrew Stanton (FINDING NEMO, WALL-E) promises a faithful recreation of the rousing SFR action-adventure he enjoyed so much as a boy. (Stanton and his co-writers on the project, Michael Chabon and Mark Andrews, reportedly all still had drawings they’d made as boys of John Carter and scenes from the books.)

The action scenes of the movie were filmed in the deserts of Utah around Moab, Lake Powell and the Delta salt flats near Hanksville. The actors playing the 12-foot-tall Tharks suffered 100+-degree heat in motion-capture suits to lend authenticity to the scenes, and the desert itself gave a stark realism to the Red Planet’s dying world. In a strange twist, the film crew came upon the apparently abandoned Mars Society Desert Research Station while filming. It appears the Society found the location a suitable stand-in for Mars for its purposes as well.

Disney has high hopes for JOHN CARTER. After all, there were eleven books in the original Barsoom series. Tarzan was a gold mine; can John Carter be any less a sturdy screen hero? Well, that depends. A lot. We’re not nearly as innocent as we used to be; our heroes and our villains tend to be a lot more complicated than Burroughs’s originals. There is still a place for epic battles between good and evil—LORD OF THE RINGS and AVATAR proved that—but the quality of the film must be absolutely first-rate, and there can be no sense of irony to it. (That doesn’t mean it must be without humor, but it must believe in itself.)

The other obstacle here is that too few audience members will have any knowledge of the originals, or any chance to truly enjoy them. Tolkien has always had a devoted following—and gained even more with the movies. His language is dense, but within the scope of modern adult readers. Since his themes are more adult, this is not a problem. Burroughs’s language is at once more archaic and less “weighty”, his themes more appropriate to his audience of young boys and magazine readers—just the kind of modern readers who would find his books impenetrable now. It’s really too bad; my ten-year-old grandson would love the stories, but he won’t have the skills to read them for many years to come. (At his age I was reading Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe and Alice in Wonderland, but don’t get me started on modern education.)

Still, I wish all involved the best of luck with JOHN CARTER. At the very least I can always stand to see more of Taylor Kitsch! In the meantime, I’m enjoying my time on Barsoom, courtesy of Mr. Burroughs, imagining myself as the Incomparable Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars!

Cheers, Donna

Monday, January 9, 2012

Laurie's Journal

I'm in the heart of The Great 2012 SFR Pitch Tournament at present (check it out!), so this will be a short post to update my Mission Success Journal.

It's a brave New Year--Happy 2012!--so let's explore a brave new future.

Today on the Anderson TV talk show, the guest was a dog owner who cloned her beloved pet. For $50,000!  One of the guests commented that $50,000 would go a long way to helping shelter animals--the statistics are that one is euthanized every second. The clone owner responded that she totally supported helping shelter animals, but this was something personal that she needed to do.

I can totally understand both sides of the argument.

A beloved pet is something you want to hold on to forever, and the death of a friend is tragic and deeply heart-rending for many people. If this were the future and cloning were much more affordable--say $1000 to $1500--I would definitely have cloned Chaco, the beautiful Black Lab that shared our lives for some 16 years. Or Scarlet. Or Schona. Both mini-longhaired Dachshunds. And Silver would definitely be a candidate for cloning, though he's still with us. (Silver is a former Appaloosa show horse we've owned for 26 years.) In a related article, check out the story of the successful cloning of a champion barrel racer called For the Love of a Horse.

But yet there are so many unwanted animals who need good homes and caring people. We adopted Kiva--a lovely yellow Lab--after losing Chaco, and she was very close to being put to sleep before we were alerted to her situation. We also have Jazz, a lovable border collie we adopted from the pound some eleven years ago.

So yes, I could certainly argue a point for both sides of this issue.

These are the sorts of moral dilemmas we'll face as we enter the brave new world of cloning. And we're just talking about pets and livestock here. What happens if/when we ever start cloning people?

Cloning of humans is an area I explored in two of my SFRs. One is a novel you've probably heard mentioned a time or two, last years' Golden Heart finalist--The Outer Planets. In this story I delve into the family complications between an original and a clone who are at odds with each other over a betrayal that left them estranged and alienated. During the course of the story, the original begins to understand his clone's actions through his own experiences by falling into a similar romantic trap. It was a fascinating dynamic to explore especially when it came to getting inside my character's heads and hearts. It would be a bit like disowning yourself, wouldn't it?

The second story is a short WIP where the implications of cloning raises its mind-boggling head in the context of a romance and the confusion, moral dilemmas and heartbreak it raises.

What are your thoughts on cloning animals? How about cloning people? Have you given it any head time or introduced cloning into one of your works of fiction? Even if you're dead-set morally against it, would you still explore the implications in a story?

Friday, January 6, 2012

TIME TRAVEL NO CHALLENGE FOR KING

Since H.G. Wells built his famous Time Machine, time travel has been a staple of science fiction and SFR. The heroes and heroines of countless novels, television shows and movies good and bad have used any number of devices, from tunnels and portals of all kinds, to slingshots around the sun, Guardians of Forever, discs placed in library players, and machines and conveyances of every description to propel themselves to another time and place.

The rules governing these trips through time have been as varied as the means of transportation. Every author or screenwriter has a different grasp on the slippery eel of time travel and a different way around the paradoxes that threaten to derail every attempt to manipulate the past. And as difficult as it is to think through the ramifications of movement through time, time travel just seems an irresistible draw to SF/SFR writers.

Now even Stephen King has entered the fray with his latest novel, sending his hero back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 11/22/63. Not surprisingly, King has come up with an intriguing set of parameters for his time travel: the portal (found by accident in the back room of a diner soon to be replaced by an L.L. Bean outlet) opens up on the same location at the same hour of the morning of September 9, 1958. If his hero, Jake Epping, takes the same actions every time through the portal, the same actions will follow—the same conversations, the same people crossing his path, etc. But if he changes his actions, other reactions follow, in a chain which has far-reaching consequences, not all of which can be predicted. Every time he leaves the past to return to 2011, the changes remain in place, but if he goes through the portal to 1958 again, things reset to zero. That is, it is as if he had never been there the first time.

If he makes money and puts it in a bank account the first time through, or buys a car or makes a friend, those things are all gone if he goes back to 2011 and returns again to 1958 the next day. (He can spend as much “time” as he wants in the past; when he returns to 2011, only two minutes will have passed.) If he saves a life in 1958 and goes back to 2011, that person will live only as long as he doesn’t return to 1958. Once he returns to the past, everything is reset; he will have to save that life all over again.

And there’s another complication—the past itself seems to be setting up roadblocks, making it difficult for Jake to do what he has set about to do. Minor obstacles—cars breaking down, power outages—interfere with the test cases he’s set up to prove he can actually change the past. Then major problems begin appearing as he gets more serious about his task—run-ins with the bookie he’s been using to make money to finance his stay, the draw of community and connection at the school where he works, love with the librarian at that school, a horrific suicide attack by the librarian’s ex-husband.

Many times Jake is tempted to give up on his quest to murder Lee Harvey Oswald and alter the course of history, a quest he’s undertaking not so much for himself, but out of a sense of obligation to the dying man who began it all, the owner of the diner. The more he learns about Oswald, the more he wonders whether he has it in him to kill this pitiable creature. And yet he realizes how much is at stake.

As usual, King brings his gripping story-telling skills and marvelous characterization to this tale. He has us from the first sentence and doesn’t let go, with that wonderful, deceptively rambling voice of his giving Jake life and letting us see 1958 from his eyes. King chose wisely in making Jake around 35. Until he lives it, Kennedy and Vietnam and the Cuban Missile Crisis (which happens while Jake is stalking Oswald), is all just a history lesson, and a vague one at that. He explains to someone that he’s just an English teacher; he doesn’t understand the politics. He, like the rest of us, learns the hard way when he walks into a bar on a night in October and sees that “everyone was watching the man I had come to save. He was pale and grave. There were dark circles under his eyes.”

That’s just the way I remember it, too, Steve. I was only nine, but even I didn’t miss the implications of that speech.

I can’t tell you how the book ends. Haven’t gotten that far. (And wouldn’t anyway—everyone hates a spoiler.) I just know that the thing that’s usually enough to give even James T. Kirk a headache is no more than another notch in the handle of the best gunslinger in the writing biz. Time travel? Yeah, that one’s easy for Stephen King. Just like all the rest.

Donna’s Journal

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

January 15 is the deadline for the Washington Romance Writers 2012 Marlene Awards contest. This year’s Paranormal category finals judge will be Heather Osborn of Samhain Publishing. I’ll be entering both my manuscripts, Unchained Memory and Trouble in Mind in this one, in hopes of snagging a final and the attention of this editor at the well-respected e-publishing firm. I’ve never had much luck with the Marlene before, but I’ll put it down to the contest coming early in the season. Now I’ll be submitting two well-traveled and polished manuscripts, so maybe I’ll have a better chance. If you’re interested in giving me some competition (spitsnarl!) the link is www.wrwdc.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.