Friday, March 30, 2018

COVER REVEAL: NOT FADE AWAY



Some births come with complications so severe you fear for the life of both child and mother. It’s a fight to bring that creation into the light, and sometimes it takes much longer and a lot more work than expected.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce (finally!) the birth of my latest book baby, Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Book 4. This Earth-based SFR novel, the newest installment in my Rescue series, launches June 12, but is on  pre-order with Amazon now.

Over the next few weeks you’ll have a chance to meet the hero and heroine of Not Fade Away, former Rescue agent Rafe Gordon and home care nurse Charlie McIntye, but today Charlie’s therapy dog Happy takes center stage. Happy is “rescue,” too, in the sense that he was adopted from the local Humane Society shelter, but, like many of his kind, it’s debatable whether Charlie rescued him or he rescued her. 

The cheerful Belgian shepherd mix helps his mistress with her elderly clients and takes an instant shine to Del Gordon, a wheelchair-bound ex-Canadian Mountie with dementia who has recently moved to the small town of Masey, North Carolina to become Charlie’s client. Or, at least, that’s the story Charlie has been told. Even Happy can sense Charlie’s confusion when the old man’s symptoms don’t quite line up with his diagnosis.

Then there is the old man’s son, Rafe. Happy is inclined to like everybody, but he can sense this human’s hesitation. It’s like this guy doesn’t even know how to act around a dog! And, if you ask Happy, the guy likes Charlie entirely too much. What’s worse is that she likes him, too. Ugh!

Finding your way toward family is not an easy task under any circumstances, much less when alien hunters are a constant threat. Good thing Happy is there to protect his new pack. These humans need all the help they can get.


Earth shielded his secrets--
Until her love unlocked his heart.

Rescue agent Rafe Gordon is human, though Earth has never been his home. But when his legendary father Del becomes the target of alien assassins, Rafe must hide the dementia-debilitated hero in the small mountain town where the old man was born—Masey, North Carolina, USA, Earth.

Home care nurse Charlie McIntyre and her therapy dog, Happy, have never had such challenging clients before. Del’s otherworldly “episodes” are not explained by his diagnosis, making Charlie question everything about her mysterious charge and his dangerously attractive son. Rafe has the answers she needs, but Charlie will have to break through his wall of secrets to get them.

As the heat rises between Charlie and Rafe, the deadly alien hunters circle closer. The light they seek to extinguish flickers in the gloom of Del’s fading mind—the memory of a planet-killer that threatens to enslave the galaxy.


Cheers, Donna

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I've finally seen The Last Jedi


Well, it's finally happened. I have watched The Last Jedi.

I suspect I'll be one of the last Star Wars fans to see the movie, and though I'll try to be spoiler free, I can't make any promises, so if you haven't seen it, best leave now. I have also read the book, which always helps to build understanding.


Overall, I thought it was very well done. It was time for the first six movies to exit stage left, and that was achieved, I think, very well. After the disappointment of The Force Awakens, which was A New Hope all over again, I feared that this movie would end up being The Empire Strikes Back mark II. It's not. Not at all. But there are scenes in it that were reminiscent of both TESB and Return of the Jedi. To me, that was fitting because this movie is the end of an era, and the beginning of something new.

Luke Skywalker's arc worked for me. He'd run away from the Galaxy, so of course he'd be a grumpy old man at being found. I was also comfortable with the final scenes. I thought of it as the difference between a journeyman and a grand master. If a Jedi attains a certain level of enlightenment they can do things ordinary Jedi can't.

Naturally there were lots of shoot 'em ups and derring-do. That's what you expect from a Star Wars movie. But this time, the storm troopers and the TIE pilots actually managed to hit their targets quite often. I particularly liked the star destroyer captain who was obviously unimpressed with General Hux's tactical skills. That's made much clearer in the book. Young Hux is not a nice man. I need hardly add the special effects (or should I say the digital effects) were terrific.

This is a much more mature Star Wars movie. People make mistakes – big ones, with huge consequences. Not every episode of derring-do ends up with victory. Poe Dameron may have grown as a character, but I think he might have a few sleepless nights. Kylo Ren is still a mixed-up mess, and Rey has found out what the Force is really all about. Luke's lessons to Rey resonated for me. Yes, there were echoes of Dagobah, but that was okay.

Watching Star Wars, it's always necessary to suspend belief at least a little bit. Eighteen hours to pop off to another planet, pick somebody up, and get a job done is hardly realistic unless space travel is almost instantaneous. But that's Star Wars.

I did have one major complaint, though. The female vice admiral wears a bloody cocktail dress, FFS. Really??? Everybody else is in a military uniform, even Leia is dressed to fit the part of a leader in a battle, but this woman's wearing a sexy little number that flows around her body. Rolls Eyes.

All in all, a jolly good effort. I'll look forward to the next one. But first, it's only a couple of months until Solo hits the screens.





Monday, March 26, 2018

Now I Know the Name of the Beast: It's Called APD

Surprise. Here I am heading happily into my retirement years, only to discover the name of the beast disorder that's afflicted me for my entire life. And affected my entire life.

I have APD.

I've always known something was a little off from the time I was in elementary school, but back in those days, research was just getting started and no one really knew what APD was. No, my brand of APD isn't Acid Peptic Disease (though that's another APD), it's not a respiratory disorder (that's COPD), and it's not the behavioral disorder (OCD) though it can certainly affect my behavior, and it has been, as I mentioned, life-altering.

APD is Auditory Processing Disorder, and for this author, it's always been a pretty major impediment in doing what authors generally need to do. This disorder affects an average of 5% of school-aged to adult people (some sources say as high as 10%), has no cure, and is usually related to genetics, chronic ear infections, or an injury to the central nervous system. In my case, I either inherited the genes, or it was due to severe ear infections I had when I was a threebie, or it's due to a fall I took from a horse when I was eight that caused other mild injuries. I suspect it's genetic, because I can't remember a time I didn't have the symptoms.

Here's a basic summary of the disorder:
  • Symptoms include difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and distinguishing between similar sounds.
First of all, and fortunately for me, the level of my particular disorder is very mild. So as APD cases go, I'm blessed. It can occasionally be coupled with dyslexia, which I don't have. But some cases are so severe that the individual can't process auditory information at all. This results in severe learning disorders where they fail in school, and/or are placed in Special Ed or special programs. In very severe cases, individuals may be unable to effectively communicate and/or develop severe behavioral problems. And it can also affect adults in their careers, of course.

It has nothing to do with intelligence, but it has everything to do with the ability to process sound.

How APD Affects Me

If I'd had a severe case, I never could have become an author. I wouldn't have been able to effectively express myself, verbally or non-verbally. But I was pretty much an honor student all through school (if you don't count Chemistry or Advanced Math -- ack!) and into college, where I maintained a 4.0 average. But that's because most learning situations involved a teacher or instructor speaking to a quiet class or my reading information from textbooks. No problemo there! It's only when we did group exercises, with several people talking at once, that I really struggled.

And there's where, early on in school, one perceptive teacher zeroed in on a possible issue with me. She could tell I wasn't "catching on" in group situations.

A battery of hearing tests was recommended. I took them. The outcome? Perfect hearing. Perfect. Full range, exceptionally acute hearing. I had no issues with being "hard of hearing" as it was called in those days, but after one particular test, they caught something. They just didn't know how to explain it. Or what to do about it.

At that point the disorder had no name and audiologists weren't quite sure what caused it, since the first identification and studies of the disorder had just begun a few years earlier. So they told my Mom that, in effect, where other people hear in 3D, I hear in one dimension. I can't sift out individual voices or sounds in a noisy environment. Essentially, my brain interprets all sound as one big, solid wall of auditory information and it can't focus on or pick out the individual bricks that make up that wall.

How APD Can Affect an Author

So let me tell you how it's impacted me as an author. Because it has nothing to do with my ability to write, right? Well, that part is true, but it has affected me in other ways. Here's a few examples of how APD can make life difficult. And especially why the thought of attending major writers' events like RWA and RT are beyond intimidating.

There's a Good Reason I Don't...

Join the SFR Author Panels
*Gasps in horror* I avoid panels because, like every author, I want to put on my best face for readers and having to ask someone three or more times to repeat their question because someone in the room coughed, or shuffled papers, or was chatting with their neighbor at the same time the question is asked is both annoying to the person addressing me, and makes me look deaf, at best, and a bit of an idiot, at worst. So, nope. I've never participated in a SFR panel. Curse you, APD!

Participate in the RWA or RT Book Signing Events
No. Just absolutely, positively no. We're talking about a massive room where there are hundreds of authors and possibly thousands of participants...all excitedly squeeing and shouting because they've just met the author of their dreams or a long lost friend. I swear the sound levels at these things get somewhere in the range of 85 decibels. Talk to people about my book? Sure, I can talk about it, I just can't interpret their comments or questions. Or I have to ask them a dozen times to please say that again and...well, see "Join the SFR Author Panels" above. I rarely venture into these cavernous rooms even to buy books, because, while I can hear everything, I just can't understand anything that individuals or authors say when they speak to me. Seriously. It's beyond frustrating.

"Go talk in the bar."
Um...yikes. With scores of other writers, authors and professionals all talking, drinking and laughing in that huge central hotel bar, I'll be lucky to interpret every fifth word that's said, and then, I'll have to concentrate hard to string together enough words to actually follow the drift of the discussion. I may say, "What's that again?" and lean closer. I may have to get up and walk to where the speaker is, asking them to repeat their words several times--like two inches away from my ear--in order to pick enough of their words out of the din to grasp a bit more of what they're saying. Having attended these events with Sharon and Donna, I'm sure they remember me pleading with them to find somewhere quiet where we could talk. Sometimes (New York, I'm looking at you) there just was no "quiet place" to be found. And then I struggled.

My first meeting with a bunch of Brigaders also happened in a very noisy, chaotic bar in Orlando (I think it even had a waterfall...yoiks!) and...yep, I struggled. I ended up nodding my head a lot and smiling and saying "Yeah" even though I had no idea what the heck I was yeahing to. For all I know someone had just asked who my fave SFR authors were, and I'd nodded my head and replied, "Yeah." It's kinda funny...except it's not.

I actually love to talk to people--especially other writers--though most people probably wouldn't know that. My favorite places to chat are quiet corridors, hotel lobbies (provided they don't have waterfalls or a lot of traffic), a quiet snack bar, and before, after or between workshops when there's not a huge crowd around. Over drinks in a bar with sane levels of noise? Absolutely. Quiet outdoor courtyard bars, I love you! Echo-y, bustling lobby bars? Forgetaboutit. Some of my favorite RWA National locations are DC and Anaheim. My least favorites are, you guessed it, Orlando and New York.

But even in a quiet setting I sometimes have problems processing what's being said, especially if it involves complex ideas. That's part of APD too, because my brain doesn't always interpret verbal information effectively. You know how there's always that one person who suddenly bursts out in a fit of laughter a minute after everyone else has stopped? Present! * raises hand *

In fact, my behavior, as a result of being "sound-challenged" often strongly resembles another disorder with the same initials -- Avoidant Personality Disorder.

What Can I Do About APD?

Learn to cope. As I mentioned, there's no cure and it's never going away. There are indications that hearing aids might help some people with APD in certain situations. I don't know if my case is one of them, but I'm willing to explore the option.

(As much as it rankles me. A hearing aid? At my age? Oh...wait....yeah. LOL)

Since I can't currently participate in the types of events most authors employ for discoverability and getting their books out there, I'm going to have to brainstorm other avenues. I've got a few ideas. We'll see how things go.

But one of the big reasons I decided to do this little testimony today is for the benefit of millions of others out there (2% - 10% of the population is huge!) who may have some level of APD and just don't realize it. It's for all the Moms and Dads and friends and individuals who recognize my symptoms and realize they know someone who may also be suffering from APD.

Some of the symptoms are:
  • Becoming upset by noisy environments
  • Becoming easily distracted or bothered by loud noises
  • Having difficulty with verbal directions
  • Having difficulty following conversations
  • Having difficulty with verbal math problems, exercises or explanations 
  • Having difficulty processing or remembering lists related verbally 

Want to see what it's like to have APD? This video is a good example:





Want to take the test given in the video above? Here it is:
Auditory Test  (PBS.com Misunderstood Minds)

Tell me how you did in comments.

Granted, this particular exercise might be difficult for anyone to complete, but it gives you a good idea what it's like to have APD.

So there you have it. My confession about my disability. And for full disclosure, now you probably understand why I'm more than a little daunted about the 2018 RWA Nationals. Which I just signed up for.

Ooh yes, I did! *bites fingernails*

Think you may be struggling with APD? Trust me, you're not alone. You can Google "Auditory Processing Disorder" (sometimes also called "Central Auditory Processing Disorder") for more information and search Facebook with the same phrase to look for support groups.

There seems to be a lot of help available to school-age children, so you might want check with your school health official. But if you're an adult who suspects they may have APD, you might want to read this article.

I'm also interested in finding and putting together a support group for authors, to discuss our particular struggles with APD and to talk about our options. If you're interested, please let me know.

Learn More:
A very informative article from Kids Health on Auditory Processing Disorder
Wikipedia: Auditor Processing Disorder
What is Auditory Processing Disorder? from WebMD (where you can livechat with MDs)

Have a great week!




Friday, March 23, 2018

GRUMPY BEAR SPEAKS


This is not a rant about the major issues of the day. We here at Spacefreighters long ago agreed that this is not the proper forum for those kinds of screeds. And, besides, if I started down that road, I might just take a left and keep on driving.

No, this is just a venting of choler about a few minor annoyances that happened to MAKE ME CRAZY this week. Because I’m feeling particularly grumpy today. Like this guy:



There’s a hole in my bucket. I just read the last book in a beloved series by one of my very favorite authors. (No, I’m not going to name either the series or the author.) Ninety-percent of the book was just as thrilling and wonderful as the rest of the series. I didn’t want it to end, especially because this was the end of a long, delicious reading experience. But, dang it, the ending left a HUGE plot hole unresolved—and not in a way that indicated we’d learn what happened in a future book. Just, “Okay, and then these people make it home, and The End.” Wait. What?

Bad enough, but there’s worse. Shrugging off this disappointment, I start another book by a favorite author who shall remain nameless. A very famous author, I might add, and a best-selling book. Pretty soon I start noticing something is missing: most of the commas before the conjunction but. Not all of them, mind you, which might indicate some kind of conscious revolt against the Evil Conjunctive Comma! No, this looks like just plain old carelessness, like someone neglected to edit this book, or put “ignore all” on every compound sentence. Because I can assure you, my computer grammar function will remind me every time I forget to insert that damn comma before the word but in a sentence like this: “Sally loved him, but he had terrible grammar.”

Death to groundhogs. Yes, Punxutawney Phil warned us there would be six more weeks of winter. That was on February 2. It’s now March 22, which by my count means the stupid groundhog has overstayed his welcome by a week. We’ve just suffered through our fourth nor’easter in three weeks and another storm is due Sunday. Here in our little corner of Western North Carolina, we’ve been lucky; the storms have hit us only glancing blows. Everywhere else in the Eastern third of the nation people are ready to pull Phil out of his burrow and string him up. Yes, and next year, I insist on erecting a very large umbrella over his successor’s burrow.

What good is electricity if I don’t have Facebook? People may be digging themselves out of the next storm only to find they have lost their raison d’etre. Facebook is in deep trouble, the center of its own little storm of scandal after the discovery that data firm Cambridge Analytica sold information it gathered on some 50 million Facebook users to third parties without their knowledge. (No, really? I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked ! ) People are calling for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg’s head and (a little gleefully, I think) predicting the collapse of the social media giant. But if there has ever been anything that is too big to fail, Facebook qualifies. No other social media platform has anywhere near the reach that this original behemoth does.

But here’s the real reason all of this will blow over by next week: there is no such thing as privacy on Facebook and anyone who uses FB should know it. How many times have we been warned not to post anything we wouldn’t want our aged grandmothers to see? How many times do the cyber-experts have to say Social Media is Forever? Do you really think those ads for super-cute TREK tee-shirts just magically show up on your news feed? Or the click-bait posts about aliens/cats/conspiracy theories/extremist politics of all persuasions? Early on, I was inclined to think the Evil FB Gnomes themselves used a computer algorithm to sell ads and click bait. Now I can envision them as Russian cyber-spies and slimy firms with smart, catchy names like Cambridge Analytica (which is probably three hairy guys in wife-beaters sitting around a roomful of computers in a Motel 6 in Cambridge, Ohio). So much better.

And now for some GOOD news. Finalists in the 2017 Romance Writers of America RITA® (published works) and Golden Heart® (unpublished manuscripts) contests were announced last Wednesday. As three of us here at Spacefreighters know, the moment caused chaos, exhilaration, joy, heartbreak and misery in countless writing households around the world as the word went out. Finaling in either of those contests can be a highpoint in a writer’s career and a long-sought-after goal, regardless of whether the contest is actually won. So, bravo, all you finalists, whatever your category, and good luck to you when the winners are announced in July.

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.