Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A sneak peek at GHOST PLANET . . .

First, apologies for being such a ghost on this blog (ha)! Between working on book 2 for Tor, finishing up production tasks for GHOST PLANET, beginning promotion activities, AND dealing with a former kindergartner now out of school and harder than ever to keep entertained . . . well, you other writerly folk know how it goes. Hats off to Laurie, Donna, and Pippa for keeping Spacefreighters humming along despite their own very full lives.

It's 3 MONTHS until launch! I decided it was high time to post my first excerpt. Well, I've had my first page up for many months, but this is the first time I've actually sat down and tried to pull out a significant chunk that would both serve as a teaser and acquaint readers with the world and characters. The excerpt includes the big first-chapter reveal, so if you don't like spoilers, this is your warning!

Be sure to check the comments, too, for a bit of trivia - what big contribution Laurie Green made during rewrites!

You can read the excerpt on my web site: A peek at GHOST PLANET

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pippa's Journal - 7/25/12

Good morning! This will be a short one as I haven't anything new to announce, and frankly I'm shattered. It's only three days into our summer holiday, and my children are running me ragged. Writing? Prrffft. I've been lucky to edit a paragraph in the last week, and I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to do the August Campnanowrimo without a tanker-full of extra strong coffee and some late-night candle-burning. But enough of my woes...


Happenings -

This month's SFR Brigade Amazon Tagging sign up is still open for you to add your title for the party on Thursday. Doing these monthly seems to be working out okay so I'm going to stick with that for now.
On Monday I hosted author Myra Nour on her latest tour for her latest release - Heart of the Dragon - a science fiction romance with dragons! Her guest post answered the question - Why Write Sci Fi Romance? I think a lot of us know the answer to that one, and would agree with many of her reasons.
I'm also doing a Writer Chat today with Natalie Wright who was kind enough to invite me, and who asked me some tough questions! She was mean with her choices. :-P
One of the sites that accepted Keir for review also invited me to do a guest post. I choose one on opening lines, an idea that had been buzzing around my head. Some of the SFR Brigade and my friends may have noticed me posting the question on favourites openings in the group and on my Facebook profile. I think it made for a great discussion topic! The post will be on Close Encounters of the Night Kind on the 27th July. I'd love to hear some more opinions on your favourite opening lines and what you think makes a good one.
I'm also interviewing romance author Krystal Brookes on the 31st, with an excerpt from her new release Bounty.

As I'm sure most of you are aware, the Firebirds are now in or on their way to Anaheim. I'm deeply jealous. Maybe one day I'll be able to do it too, but in the meantime I wish them all the best and hope it's a blast. Next Wednesday I start Campnanowrimo - prepare for much screaming!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pippa's Journal - 7/18/12

With my co-bloggers at Anaheim, I'm trying to keep Spacefeighters Lounge active so bear with me. I may ramble!


Action!
This week I've been working on setting up a website. I love my Blogger site (I also have a Wordpress one, but I've struggled to work with it) but with one book out and hopes of adding some 'Coming Soon' titles, I decided the time had come to boldly take that final step. The Blogger site will still be my main point of contact and general workhorse, but the website should make it easier for readers to find out about my book(s) and ways to contact me, should they wish too. I have to admit I'd been putting it off as something too expensive and complicated to be justified at the time. I've been pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong on both counts! There are three simple steps, but I'll blog about those once the site is up so you can take a look for comparison. I'll be announcing the launch of the website as soon as I feel brave enough to upload it to a host, but in the meantime here's a sneak preview of my new banner, courtesy of the talented Misa Buckley.


And an update on the forthcoming print version of Keir. While randomly checking that the buttons and links on my new website design were working, I discovered that Barnes & Noble already have it available for pre-order here. Squeee! I'm stunned. If you're interested in a print copy, I recommend trying to pre-order - the price they're quoting is less than I think it's due to be sold at. It's also stating a release date for print of the 28th October, so I'm going to plan a mini-tour or event for then to celebrate. A Halloween special perhaps.

There was also the arrival of another shiny thing to my inbox first thing Monday, just the boost I needed after a disturbed night with my youngest and a difficult meeting with my daughter's school upcoming. But I'm keeping that under my hat for now. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Discoveries
After reading an article by Greta van der Rol on the use of body language here I was tempted to check out the book she quoted - The Definitive Book of Body Language. I haven't invested in a copy yet - it's quite expensive - but this is the kind of thing that's so helpful to an author to 'show' instead of 'tell'. Does anyone have any similar recommendations?
Also if you struggle with commas (my editor and one of my crit partners frequently cull them from my manuscripts) here's a blog post with a very brief but concise guide on their usage at Rainy of the Dark.

Pssst!
Silver Publishing have just announced a new division - Silver Stream Press - offering "mainstream romance and fiction. These general audience stories offer content commonly found in traditional bookstores—romance, action, thriller, suspense and so much more while excluding explicit sexual or graphic content. Additionally, this division of our publishing umbrella offers Young Adult fiction. Although these stories are enjoyed by all age ranges, their content is tailored with teenage readers in mind." They're currently accepting submissions, and you can check out their guidelines here.

Ping Pong
If you take a look to the right hand side of the blog, you will see the shiny new badge that will take you to the Firebirds website. I hope Sharon, Donna and Laurie are having a blast there!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pippa's Journal - 7/11/12

With all my co-bloggers off to Anaheim to celebrate their latest Golden Heart awards, I'm flying solo - eeek! So bear with me if there's a bump or two. :-P

Summer in the UK seems to be a misnomer at the moment. I'm writing this post on the Sunday, and once more it's raining outside. Ironic, really, since back in February the water companies announced a hosepipe ban after the UK suffered its driest winter on record. Within a couple of weeks of the ban taking effect, the heavens opened and have pretty much carried on that way ever since. With my family of redheads being as white-skinned and sunburn prone as I am, I don't miss days of blazing sunlight. But the constant wetness of this 'summer' is making me feel depressed. And rather soggy.

And the summer holidays are fast approaching. In the UK they run from mid-July until early September. Wet days mean bored kids stuck indoors with a mummy frustrated by her lack of writing time. For some crazy reason I've signed myself up for my first nanowrimo - Camp Nanowrimo, that is. For the whole of August. While my kids are home. Insane? Quite likely. Still, I wrote Keir during one summer holiday in the hope of saving my sanity and 'finding' myself. Now I find myself stressing over how to keep the kids from strangling one another...if I don't get there first. :-P

Summer is meant to be fun, and even if the weather lets us down in a typically British fashion, I'm determined this one will be good. My sister, myself, my eldest and my neice all have birthdays within two weeks of one another from the end of July. Keir will celebrate his third 'birthday' on the 17th. On the 23rd August I'm meeting up for real with the first writer I ever friended on Facebook - Ian Peaston, a talented scifi author and musician who will be playing at the Edinburgh Festival. I'm so excited I could scream! Ian was the first person to show me that I wasn't mad - or, at least, only mad in a way most authors are.You can check out his writing here and his music here. Both are unique and imaginative, and have gone a long way to inspire me on the way.

But in the mean time, I have yet another exciting piece of news...

Success

Keir will be available in print! Woo hoo! For various reasons, it seemed unlikely when I first signed my contract. Keir was outside the word count limit for print editions, although there was a sweetner in the form of print rights reverting to me soon after the digital release. That, at least, gave me the option of using a POD service to make print copies available, something I learned about while researching self-publishing. However, just before the weekend my publisher contacted me to say that she wanted to try a print run of Keir. Of course, it's very experimental and should it not work out the print version will get pulled--until the print rights revert to me, anyway. To say that I'm thrilled by the news is putting it mildly! I'm honoured at the faith Lyrical Press are showing in me and Keir, and excited that I'll soon be able to hold a print copy in my hand. I love my Kindle and love the ease of downloading digital imprints. Trust me, I'm very at home with digital publishing. But there's still a lot to be said for having a print copy. I've already seen a working version of the cover and a PDF of the interior. It's one of the prettiest things I've ever seen! :) Keir and Hard Core are the two novels heralding the reopening of Lyrical's print line due out in October, and you can read about it here.

Action

In the meantime the race is on to finish the edits on the sequel, find a new name for it and get it subbed to Lyrical Press before the summer holiday starts. I have just six mornings of child-free time to do that. That's just fifteen hours! Feeling the pressure! After that, planning and then writing my camp nanowrimo project will take me to the end of August. By then I'll know if Gethyon has found a home, where Keir has been placed in the Readers Favorite Contest, whether Tethered is a finalist in the Rebecca, and possibly whether Keir is a finalist in the EPIC awards. Unless anything else comes up in the meantime, I'll spend September working on Tethered for submission, and maybe the nanowrimo story When Dark Falls. My youngest starts full-time school then, giving me five glorious days a week to work! Woo hoo!

It's weird looking back to a year ago, when I'd just signed my contract for Keir. Or three years back when I hadn't even started working on Keir, and writing was a long-forgotten hobby that had been taken over by working, and then children. I can't believe how far I've come in that time, and I can only imagine where I've still to go. On those days when it seems I can't get the words down and I stress over not having other titles scheduled for publication, I have to remind myself how much has changed in just two years. Sometimes you need to stop and appreciate the things you have.

Ping Pong

At Donna, Sharon and Laurie - have fun Firebirds!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shore Leave, Spacefreighters Style

Mission Success
Laurie's Journal

Things are going to get reaaaaaally quiet around here for the next few weeks. Donna and I are soon off to Anaheim--where Sharon will join us later in the week--for the Big Event of the Year, the RWA National Conference. We'll be in full preparation for launch the next couple of weeks, so we're leaving Pippa Jay to entertain you with her wonderful posts and journal entries. Thanks, Pippa!

But back to Nationals. This year it's going to be in Anaheim, California--otherwise known as Disneyland Territory. We had such a fabulous time two years ago in Orlando at Disney World, that I kinda have a feeling this conference is going to be epic (as Sair would say).

*whistles California, Here I Come*

In addition to the usual Golden Heart hoopla--meeting my fellow Firebirds as a group, the TGN Retreat, Champagne Reception, and all the glitz and glamour of the Awards ceremony, this year I'll have some additional events to look forward to.

Meeting my Agent
Though we've talked on the phone and chatted in emails, this will be my first opportunity for a face-to-face with Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary. I'm really looking forward to the chat/game plan discussion/getting-to-know-you session. Heck, I'm still getting over the excitement of being able to say "I have an agent." (Pssst. Amanda is taking pitches at Nationals this year, so if you haven't signed up yet, look for her name. And BTW, she loves SFR!)

The Golden Network Hall of Gold 
This is an exclusive club for those writers who have been finalists in the Golden Heart three or more times. I'll be joining Sharon on that very short roster, and Donna, I fully expect to see you inducted next year. (Better get that third novel in shape. hehe)

A (First Ever) Awards Ceremony Afterparty
Many thanks to Samhain Publishing (who publishes Barbara Elsborg and many of my peers at the SFR Brigade) for the invitation and for beginning what I hope will be an annual tradition. The RITA/Golden Heart Awards are often compared to the Academy Awards and now they're even going to have a bonafide afterparty, just like Big Sis. Trust me, it's always such a let down when the awards close out the conference and everyone begins to disburse to pack and fly home, not to be together again as a group for a whole year. The Samhain afterparty will be a chance to say our congrats, our attagirls, our "it's been great getting to know you's" and our *sniff* so longs. This year will be particularly painful for me, since I don't plan to attend Nationals in 2013. Two years? Two years without seeing this fun, high-energy, amazing crowd of talented writers? I'm going to need a party!

I may pop in a time or two before I jet off to Southern Cal, but this will most likely be my last journal entry before then (unless, you know, something really historic happens in my career).

See ya on the flip side!

~~ * ~~

Friday, July 6, 2012

IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN!

I recently adopted a six-month-old pit bull-mix puppy from the local animal shelter. She’s sweet and loveable and very eager to please, but she was a stray and has no clue how she should behave in civilized society. Dedicated training with yummy treats pretty quickly brought her to a comprehension of “sit” and some approximation of “lie down”. But “come” is fraught with distraction. And potty training is so problematic we took a trip to the vet to make sure she didn’t have a physical cause for her inability to get the idea of going to the door to make her needs known.

Our vet of many years says there are two possibilities: either she has a bladder infection, or she’s just dumb.

Lately I’ve been struggling through a new novel by a well-known and much respected science fiction writer that makes me feel a lot like my poor dog—and I don’t mean it has given me a need for antibiotics.

I don’t read a lot of pure SF anymore. The need to keep up in romance—all subgenres—and to keep current with some of my favorite authors outside romance (like Stephen King) plus the heavy emphasis on hard science in SF today means that I usually only read it if someone recommends something. Heaven knows why I chose this one—Amazon recommended the title, and it looked interesting. I knew the author from back in the day (that’s how famous the author is). Evil, evil Amazon!

Every once in a while, too, I think it’s good to expand your horizons. You should read something you never read—nonfiction or historical romance or a Western or YA—just to give your brain a jolt. And, who knows, you may like it! That happened to me at my first RWA National conference, when I read Eloisa James for the first time. I’m an addict now, and she’s led me to other excellent historical romance writers.

So I thought I’d stretch my brain a bit with this SF novel. I was fully cognizant that this would be a workout. Serious SF usually is, conceptually, if nothing else. You have to think hard about the technological or scientific or philosophical concepts around which the book is built in order to understand what’s going on. That’s a given. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t, but thinking about it is part of the fun. I can remember books by authors like Ursula K. LeGuin, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and dozens of others that engaged the brain in just that way.

But it didn’t take long before I felt like my brain was not up to the task of reading this book. Like my puppy, I began to feel lost and clueless and dumb. Not that the book isn’t trying to help me! Oh, no! There is page after page of exposition telling me how this works and that was built, the history of this and the organization of that. Lord, I had forgotten how SF writers got carried away with that stuff. There are timelines and lists and “extracts” and notes and such to break all this up. Helpful.

Humans are enhanced in this future in various ways, so a lot of history has happened in the characters’ lifetimes. Much of it is indeed interesting, but you get the sense that you’re wandering through some obscure museum, reading the plaques over the exhibits. Nothing is emotionally engaging or seems to have anything to do with the story, which is a political mystery of sorts.

There are passages devoted to philosophical (or biochemical or astrophysical) discussion that seem to just pop up here and there. And, of course, there is the need to check your dictionary for the meaning of vocabulary words every fifth page. (It would be more often, but I’ve given up on everything but the worst of them.)

And lest you think I really am a dummy, I graduated from my private Midwestern college Phi Beta Kappa, a little factoid I don’t have to haul out very often.

So what is the point? Why don’t I just hit “delete” on my Kindle and download something more compatible? Part of is pure stubbornness—I don’t like to give up on a challenge. This is an Important Writer—a Hugo and Nebula winner—saying Important Things—his themes are ecological and economic sustainability. And, truly, there are diamonds of pure, white brilliance that may be worth all the slogging—images only this writer’s vivid imagination and keen intelligence can conjure.

But as a steady diet? No. And what’s even more important, my experience is a key to why so many readers in the romance world are unwilling to even try something with the label “science fiction” attached to it. No one likes to feel stupid. Too often the values that the SF world holds highly—intricate world-building, scientific plausibility, daring technological or philosophical concepts—lead writers to use the six-dollar word where a 50-cent word would do just fine. They wax eloquent, taking a few starry-eyed readers with them, and leaving the vast majority in the dust behind. Just one experience of being left behind is enough for most readers. They don’t want a repeat.

The challenge for those of us who want to reach a wider audience is to convince them we intend to carry them with us all the way. How to do that? Focus on the story and the characters telling that story. And let your readers feel smart.

I’ll be away from the Lounge for the next three Fridays. Enjoy your summer and I’ll be back August 3!

Cheers, Donna

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pippa's Journal - 7/1/12


Happy 1st July! Um, yes, I know the 4th is the US celebration of Independence. I was due to post then but Laurie generously offered a swap as I have news! Of course we don't celebrate the 4th of July in the UK, but I'd like to wish all my US friends and fellow authors a very happy Independence Day for Wednesday. Today I have a special announcement and reason of my own to celebrate...



Success
On the 1st July I learned that Keir has made it as a finalist in the Readers Favorite Contest Awards. Woo hoo! This is my first literary contest. It means Keir will at least score an Honorable Mention when the winners are announced in September. Maybe more. You can check it out here under the Romance - Fantasy/Scifi category waaaay down the page after the non-fiction categories. And my publisher posted the news on their blog too here. As someone who has never done contests of any kind and with Keir being my debut novel, I'm stunned and proud to see my title reach the top five for its category. :D

Action!
In the past month, I've learned two things. Actually, I've learned a lot more than that, but these are two that I'd like to pass on to authors, aspiring and published.  One, blog hops are a great way to get your name out and gain followers. Since the start of the year, I've taken part in four (one of which I organized), and one blogging event where several authors posted over a day on one blog. In all cases I've gained new followers on my blog, and often new followers on Twitter and my Facebook page. For two of them, I didn't even have a book out. Of course, most people visiting are interested in the prizes on offer. I'll freely admit to that myself. But I think it follows that same principle of having to show your toddler a new food ten times or more to persuade them to eat it. I notice books more if I've seen their cover or title a time or three on Twitter. They stick. If I'm seeing good reviews, or a recommendation by a friend, or an interesting blurb, I'm more likely to pick that book up. People coming to the blog have commented on the cover or expressed an interest in the excerpts and blurb, something that always gives me a warm feeling. How many of them will buy it, I don't know, but getting potential readers to even look at your book can be a struggle, especially if you're a new, unknown author without any PR support to back up your promotion. So I'm grateful for the people who stop by, and who like the cover and the blurb. Maybe they'll come back. Maybe they'll tell a friend or two. :)

Two, requests to reviewers need to be researched and as skillfully constructed as queries and submissions. I'm not the kind of person who sends out form letters - ever! I've received them once or twice, and it drives me insane. From what I've seen on Twitter, it also drives other reviewers, publishers, agents and authors crazy. Don't do it! Research your reviewer as carefully as you would anyone else you'd submit to. Check out what they liked and didn't like in your genre. That way you can get an idea if your book would be accepted and/or receive a favourable review. And don't mass email a load with the same letter. Most reviewers have a review policy of some description on their blog. Read it. Read it again. Make sure your query fits what they're asking for. Some will want a huge amount of detail beyond the basic 'title, genre, author, word count, format' etc. Many have a backlog that may mean them taking up to a year (a figure quoted by one of the reviewers on my list) to get to your review. Treat them with respect. You really don't want to annoy reviewers...do you?

I've sent requests to eight reviewers in the last month. (BTW, my publisher submitted to 32 on my behalf, and out of those I've so far received one review. That's fairly average, FYI). Out of those I've received three acceptances and one post as a featured author (but no guarantee of a review there). One author interview also resulted in me being offered a review. Keir had a handful of independent reviews at the time of release, which was encouraging, but I intend to carry on submitting requests for more. Every review will raise my book's profile a fraction. And frankly there's nothing that encourages me with the sequel more than hearing people enjoyed the first book. :)

I'm currently a featured author over at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews (not, I hasten to add, my Spacefreighters co-blogger Laurie Green) with an ebook copy of Keir up for grabs, open until the 21st July. You can also find out about my near-death experience and my childhood ambition to be a Jedi Knight.

Discoveries
Blog Hops - if you like the idea of taking part in blog hops (you DO need a blog to take part, but you don't need to be an author, published or otherwise) or you're interested in knowing when some are on and want a chance at some cool prizes, you can sign up to Carrie Ann Ryan's Blog Hop page here on Facebook. Carrie Ann hosts them regularly, and I'm pleased to have taken part in three so far this year, with a fourth at the end of August.
If you're into dragons and dragon-related artwork, I found this page on Facebook - Dragons of the Fantasy World.

Happenings
On Thursday I have a guest post and giveaway with Diane Dooley for her latest release Mako's Bounty on my blog here. She'll be discussing Birth Control of the Future! Entries for the EPIC Ebook Awards also opened on the 1st June and close on the 15th July. Following Keir's success as a finalist, I'll be entering it there too.

Ping Pong
Donna - can't wait to read what you and Heather came up with over your time together. And I hope you and Laurie enjoy the Conference. Go Firebirds!

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.