Monday, April 30, 2018

A Busy Month of May! #amwriting #ALSbenefit

Last day of April 2018. Hard to believe, isn't it?

And May is looking to be a very busy and productive month!

A cover waiting for
its book.
I'm currently working on revising or creating new scenes, dialogue and elements for my series story, StarDog. When I originally wrote the book for the first Pets in Space collection, I was constrained by word count limits, so had to keep the scene-building brief and tight. Now I have the opportunity to explore more of the characters, backstories and politics as tensions soar in the months leading up to events in Inherit the Stars. 

This is Taro and Adini's adventure, and both will make appearances in future books (as well as the title character, my feisty little StarDog). A few familiar faces from the novel also have a part in this prequel.

It's been FUN! to work on these story embellishments, though admittedly, it's also been a challenge.

I also have a couple of other things going on...

Book Fair -- 99 Cent Books

ONLY THROUGH TODAY, there's a huge selection of multi-genre books available in a big Book Fair special -- including Farewell Andromeda -- all at 99 cents! There are Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, Young Adult, Science Fiction / Science Fiction Romance and more.

But it's ONLY THROUGH TODAY, so hurry!



Here's the landing page where you can do a quick scan of the offerings: BOOK FAIR


Blue Book Cover Brigade to Support ALS Research

Beginning tomorrow, May 1st, I'm joining ranks with several other authors, including co-bloggers Greta van der Rol and Pippa Jay, to participate in the ALS Association 2018 Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS and Walk.

Author Lea Kirk organized and coordinated the event, and put together a group of dedicated authors for this very worthwhile cause. We're all involved as virtual participants and we'll be donating 25% of our book sales during May to the cause.



But even if you don't want to invest in some great reads, there are other ways you can help. A straight donation can be done through my page on the site. Click for: Laurie A. Green's Page. Here you can make a direct donation via credit card in any amount (anonymously or not) and it will go to the ALS Association for ALS research. You can also designate the name of a person in whose honor you are making your donation.

Check out our Blue Book Cover Brigade Page to see the other authors involved and what books they have in the project.

And here's a special "no fanfare" offer. To get this kicked off, I'll gift a copy of Inherit the Stars via Amazon US to the first three people who comment below and include the words - Blue Book Cover Brigade to help ALS - in their comment. Then I'll donate 25% of the price to the cause.

Learn more about the event on the Blue Book Cover Brigade Site.

Click here to go to our Authors Supporting ALSA landing page.

I have a couple of very special reasons for wanting to get involved this year. And since I'm now dabbling in creating my own videos, I put together this short (1:30) clip on why this event is an important one for me. Let me know how I did.




Thank you all!

Big Week on the Horse Front

And last, but not least, this is the big week in my "other" profession. The Kentucky Derby will be run this coming Saturday, May 5th.

It's Cinco de Derby this year!!!


My Derby T-shirt for 2018
And there's always speculation about which horse is going to win the Run for the Roses. One of the top contenders is a horse named, ironically, Mendelssohn. That's only a couple of letters off from the name of the central family in my series--the Mennelsohns. (Also, one of the actors in Star Wars: Rogue One was named Mendelsohn--just one letter off.)

Our 3YO filly, Inherit the Stars (familiar name? haha), is prepping for her first race after being laid up due to a walker accident (no, not the Star Wars kind of walker--this was a mechanical horse walker) last fall as a 2YO. Another irony. One of the jockeys who frequently rides for our trainer has a first name of Ry--who is also the name of a character in Inherit the Stars, the brother of Captain Drea Mennelsohn, the heroine.

So I'll report back if Mendelssohn (the horse) wins the Derby, and if Ry (the jockey) is ever matched up with Inherit the Stars (the filly).

On the home front, we had two very strong 2nd place finishes in April by horses we own or bred (Endless Thyme and Blazing Away), so we're looking forward to an exciting summer season ahead.

Have a great Derby week!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Free SFR Book Giveaway This Weekend!


The April Showers Science Fiction Romance Giveaway
is on this weekend only!
 
Nearly 40 BOOKS to choose from!
 
Click below to
 
 
Stock up for summer!

This includes Laurie A. Green's Inherit the Stars Part I: Flight, the first third of her serialized, award-winning novel, also named one of the "Best Books of 2015" by LibraryJournal.com.

Also includes books by Cara Bristol, Aurora Springer, Lexi Post, EG Manetti and many more.

Friday, April 27, 2018

SFR: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME


Now that both Laurie and Greta have chimed in, I might as well add my two cents’ worth on the subject of recent trends in science fiction romance and how I fit in. No surprise, really, but I’m still surfing along on the outside curl of whatever market wave may be building for SFR. If that genre wave ever reaches towering proportions, I may get a decent lift and a fun ride, but I doubt I’ll see the inside of that monster “tube,” if it  comes.

I fell in love with SF back in the day of rockets and robots, but I was drawn to the eerie twists of Twilight Zone just as much as the unbounded space adventures of Star Trek. So it follows that my work reflects those twin fascinations. My head is in the stars, but my feet are solidly on Earth. It’s not the Earth that everyone sees, however. Things in my Interstellar Rescue series universe are just a little . . . different.

I have written the occasional space opera (all my early Trek fan fiction and my SFR Galaxy Award-winning Fools Rush In, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 3.) But most of what I do I call contemporary science fiction romance, because it takes place here and now. A lot of the action (though not all of it) takes place on Earth in the present day. Many, though not all, of the characters are human. In Unchained Memory, the first novel in the series, the true villains, the alien Grays, remain unseen for the entire book! Yet their actions have a profound impact on the heroine and her hero. It is, after all, a story of alien abduction, interstellar slavery, mind control, and, ultimately, the fight to overcome all those evils.

Contemporary SFR has a lot in common with its better-known counterpart, contemporary romance, since it has a familiar setting and timeframe. It also shares elements with romantic suspense, since the lovers must solve a mystery at the heart of every novel in order to reach their happily ever after. But, unlike shorter contemporary romance novels, my Interstellar Rescue books tend to be complex, with multiple subplots and points of view. I often take the reader off-planet with these subplots, exploring alien cultures or characters, or the villain’s POV, to give the books depth. 

Then there's the heat level. I tend to write a little sexier than the average contemporary romance or romantic suspense. Heck, I write sexier than the average SFR, too, unless you count SFR erotica. My books have a well-defined romantic arc; my lovers deserve a well-defined love life.

Recently another term has arisen to describe the kind of thing I do with my Earth-bound stories: cozy SFR. Author and long-time SFR booster Jacqueline Lichtenberg wrote an illuminating pair of articles last year on the subject, framing the concept using the characteristics of the “cozy mystery” for comparison. Lichtenberg argues that in these mysteries, the protagonist’s world is “cozy” (that is, comfortable, predictable, safe) to begin with, but is turned upside down by some event at the beginning of the novel which precipitates the action (eg. a murder in a small town). The protagonist (or the hero and heroine in the case of a romance) must act then to put the world straight/safe again (solve the murder, win the day).

Bilbo's cozy life is about to be disrupted!

It’s no stretch to apply this to SFR or fantasy. A precipitating event must always set the quest in motion (Gandalf arrives at the door of Bilbo’s cozy hobbit hole). In the case of Unchained Memory, my heroine Asia wakes up on a lonely country road, missing three hours. At home, a fire has taken the lives of her children. Her quest to find out what happened leads her to discover her world is not what she thought it was.

The idea that the world is not what we thought it was is central to the “cozy” novel, according to Lichtenberg. It’s also central to my Interstellar Rescue series. The setting may be familiar, but each of my heroines suddenly finds her worldview is transformed by what she learns throughout the novel. Nothing will ever seem the same.

This excerpt from my latest novel gives you an idea of what that might feel like:

Charlie stared into her mug, studied the greenish ring in the bottom that was all that was left of her third cup of tea? Her fourth? She’d lost track. Her mind was reeling, her body buzzing with caffeine, adrenalin and lack of sleep. She was working hard to comprehend the information she’d been given over the last hour or so, trying to reconstruct her world according to a whole new design, fighting to make her altered reality seem, well, real.

But she was failing miserably. To believe the galaxy was filled with inhabited planets. Beings moved easily among the stars through a system of wormhole-like “jump nodes” that had been discovered and mapped long ago. Bad guys—aliens—called “Grays” stole people, including humans from Earth, and used them as slaves. Good guys called “the Interstellar Council for Abolition and Rescue” fought the aliens, and sometimes returned the slaves to Earth.

And most devastating of all: the man she had just slept with was one of those Rescue agents, a fact he’d hidden from her despite their intimacy. She’d known as soon as the assassin had come through the door that she’d lose Rafe; she knew now she’d never had him in the first place.

Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4, is available for pre-order NOW on Amazon

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The vagaries of genre or where does my book fit?


Laurie's recent post about science fiction romance as a genre resonated with me. I sometimes wonder how big the market is for stories like mine. I can't in all conscience adorn my covers with beautiful male chests, although I'll admit I did try it, a long time ago. (See left) I suspect it worked, too, because readers at least read the blurb. But over time, my stories have become less explicit when it comes to sex, and I believe lots of man-titty signals explicit sex. On the flame scale, I wouldn't put my books at more than 2-3. They're not fade to black when the bedroom door closes, but you wouldn't want to use them as a 'how to'.

Science fiction is such a hard genre to define and the merge with fantasy is unavoidable. We write about 'science' that does not exist. It may in the future, but it's impossible now. Artificial gravity, forms of faster-than-light travel, advanced artificial intelligence, lifelike avatars, alien beings - the list goes on. It's not magic. We don't have magic in our SF worlds. But we can have shifters, vampires, strange alien psi powers and the like. Anything, really - as long as we claim a scientific explanation.

Anne McCaffrey's much-loved Pern series is one that has often been poo-pooed by the SF purists. It has dragons and mental telepathy, so it's fantasy. But the dragons are genetically engineered local species, with powers that evolved so the little fire lizards could escape the ravages of thread. Somebody once described the dragons as an ecologically sustainable air force. I like that. As far as I'm concerned, that's SF, not fantasy. As we say in the copyright notice on our books, "any resemblance to any person (or animal) is purely coincidental".

I actually find it harder to fit the romance half of the title. I'd be much more comfortable being in Science Fiction - romance. Genre, you see. It’s all about marketing. Into which pigeonhole does this book fit? I had some fun drawing a diagram to illustrate some of the complexities of genre.

 Some genres are pretty easy. In romance, the romance must be the focus of the plot, and it must have a happy ever after (HEA) ending or a happy for now (HFN) ending. I talked about the rules of romance here. But every genre has ‘shades of grey’ (yeah, yeah). Science fiction ranges between hard SF and soft SF. I discussed that here. On the hard SF – soft SF line, I’d put most space opera sort of in the middle. Star Wars and Star Trek would definitely be down the soft SF end, McDevitt’s books would be down the hard SF end. Romance has its continuum, too, often expressed in degrees of ‘heat’ (ie explicit sex scenes). In ‘sweet’ romance, the scene stops at the bedroom door. In erotic romance, the sex is explicit.

Now we get to science fiction romance, which is a combination of two genres. The SCIENCE romance – ROMANCE science line indicates what is the most important focus of the work. Would we have a story without the romance? Would we have a story without the science? I would suggest that real SFR should be down the science ROMANCE end – I think Avatar is a good example. Without the romance, there is no story. And in Avatar the explicitness of the sex component is most definitely ‘sweet’. Interestingly enough, one of McCaffrey’s early works, Restoree, is listed in science fiction. Yet Restoree is without a doubt science fiction romance, with a ‘sweet’ tag on the sex register. So SFR has been around for a while, mixed in with SF. But there isn't a lot. When I went looking, Linnea Sinclair's books were in romance, not SF.

It’s a pretty complex combination of components.

When I started writing, I knew I’d write SF because that’s what I like. But I wanted to add a bit of emotion to my writing. Most SF either seemed to leave out love and sex (Asimov), or it was so understated that it almost disappeared. An example of the latter is Moon’s Serrano series. SF was pulp fiction, with an expectation that it was fast-paced action-adventure. A response to a query I sent to a publisher around 2008 reinforced that belief. “Well written, but needs more action.” So I added more action. Still no cigar.

Okay, what about science fiction romance? Ah, but most SFR books are in the romance section. This has an advantage in one way, because romance sales are way, way more than SF. But it seems only a small subset of romance readers will read SF. Moreover, the expectation for the romance genre is that the romance is the core of the book. No romance, no story. I can honestly say that not one of my books fits that definition. Of them all, the Iron Admiral duo come closest and even with those two I had to do some serious tweaking for my editor to agree it had earned a romance tag.

We are told that sticking to one genre when writing is a good idea. And it makes sense. With that in mind, I resolved to write SFR, albeit with less emphasis on the romance.

What’s the outcome? Well, if you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed read with a complex plot – come on in, sit right down. Would you like to call that pulp fiction? Sure. Will there be some emotional elements, some sex? Sure. Love is a powerful emotion, sex is a fundamental driving force. You’ll find those things in everything I write. Do I do my research? You bet I do. I try to make my science sound, my history correct, my settings convincing. I suppose, when it comes right down to it, I’d prefer to see my books in the science fiction section. Both they, and I, feel more comfortable there - but SF is still not comfortable with soppy emotion. Just as well I don't have to pay a mortgage with my earnings.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Am I Writing the Wrong Kind of SFR?

I recently wondered if I've come to a creative crossroads. Come muse with me a bit on the status quo of SFR.

When I started penning SFR about ten years ago, the "flavor" of the genre that inspired me was Space Opera Romance. That fit nicely with what some of the big names in SFR were also writing at that time, like Linnea Sinclair, Susan Grant, Ann Aguirre, Lois McMaster Bujold and some of Catherine Asaro's work. It wasn't a copycat scenario for me, in the least. Space Opera has always inspired and moved me, and adding the "R" only enhanced the stakes, in my very humble opinion. It's always been what I've been inspired to write.

I like big, visual, high-stakes SFR--with equally high-stakes romances--whether set on an advanced phototype ship, in an alien civilization, or a near future solar system expedition.

But in the last couple of years I've noted a definite paradigm shift in popularity from Space Opera SFR to Shifter SFR. That would be Dragon, Wolf, Bear, Lion, Tiger shapeshifters, in spaaaaaaace. And other flavors of SF that edge into the Paranormal sectors of fiction.

Hmmm. Is my work out of step with the times? And what does this mean for the genre?

It concerns me that SFR's already tiny sliver of the Romance pie is now being further divided by these new trends. The genre has always been wildly diverse flavor-wise, but it's struggling (yet again) with what it wants to be when it grows up.

For reference, this is the list of current "types" of SFR that fall under the SFR Brigade's umbrella:
  • alien romance
  • alternate history romance (with technology, aka Battlestar Galactica)
  • apocalyptic romance
  • bio-engineered romance
  • biopunk romance
  • cli-fi romance (severe or catastrophic climate change not due to magic)
  • colonization romance
  • contemporary science fiction romance
  • cyberpunk romance
  • cyborg romance
  • distant future romance (takes place far in the future with advanced tech, etc.)
  • dystopian romance
  • Earth-based science fiction romance (such as Jurassic Park)
  • erotica science fiction romance
  • first contact romance
  • futuristic romance
  • interstellar adventure romance
  • military science fiction romance
  • medical science fiction romance
  • near future romance
  • parallel dimension romance (when technology or physics is incorporated)
  • planetary colonization romance (romance happens during space colonization efforts)
  • planetary romance (romance happens on another planet)
  • psi-fi romance (story has a basis in science, technology or physics)
  • space colonization romance
  • space opera romance
  • science fantasy romance (technology blended with metaphysical elements ala Star Wars)
  • slipstream (sci-fi with fantasy, horror, etc. with technical/scientific elements)
  • steampunk romance
  • superhero romance (when superpowers are based on technology or science)
  • time travel romance (when technology or physics, not magic, enables the time travel)
  • top gun romance (top pilot or captain in space)
  • young adult romance or new adult romance with any of the above


  • Whew! That's a very broad spectrum for one genre. (Or even one sub-genre, if that's how you choose to classify it.)

    Though Shifter SFR isn't yet specifically mentioned, most could probably fall under science fantasy romance, futuristic, slipstream, bio-engineered or alien romance, depending on the level and type of science elements introduced to explain (or not explain) the "shifter" characters.

    Looking closer, SFR now seems to be morphing into Paranormal-based SFR and SF-based SFR. That trend concerns me, for a number of reasons.

    SFR seems to be about the only genre struggling with this breakdown. Historical Romance is much more cut and dried in what its readership expects--era-based romances. Contemporary Romance is the same--modern themes and complications. Suspense Romance may be a little more diverse in what creates the "suspense" elements for readers.

    But SFR?---it's all over the frickin' board!

    Some SFR readers like shapeshifters in space. Some like cyborgs. Some like gladiators. Some prefer alien warriors. A unifying theme sometimes helps, like the Pets in Space collections, that joins various genre-diverse stories in a common element. But, all-in-all, the readership of one SFR may not transfer to another.

    This made me take a hard look at my planned series to ponder if the vision is still valid for SFR readers.

    And my intuition tells me it is.

    Expanded novella coming soon
    But that said, a course correction may be in order. Going forward, I need to focus a little more on how I'm going to market my books, since they do venture dramatically close, or even cross over into the fringes of SF territory--where romance plot threads are sometimes immediately discounted by some SF fans. (See my previous blog: Re-Visiting an Old Battle: Keep Your R out of my SF!)

    The flipside of that is I'm seeing romance themes getting more and more acceptable with SF, since they're now found--or at least given a bit of air time--in some very popular series (televised or otherwise). Even The Martian, where author Andy Weir has stated he intentionally created a hero without a love interest back home on Earth, explored a very subtly portrayed romance between two of the crewmembers, Chris Beck and Beth Johanssen (though the scenes where Commander Lewis actually deals with their mission-taboo romance were cut from the original movie and are only seen in the extended cut version).

    So, after much pondering, my advice to myself (to quote a line from an old Star Wars episode) is to: "Stay on target."

    So back to writing my SORs (Space Opera Romances).

    Have a great week.




    Friday, April 20, 2018

    EIGHTY YEARS OF THE MAN OF STEEL


    Happy birthday, Superman! It may be a little early, but what the heck. At 80 years old, you deserve the cake and balloons, you big hunk of red and blue! 

    Hard to believe it, but DC Comics just released Action Comics #1000 this week, 80 years after the Man of Steel debuted in June, 1938. And, as James Whitbrook notes in his post on 109.com, the writers/artists used the occasion to give Supe’s well-known origin story a few new twists.

    You know the tale (and if you don’t, where have you been hiding?): the infant Kal-El is placed aboard an Earth-bound spaceship by his parents to save him from the destruction of his birth planet of Krypton. The spaceship crashes in a cornfield in Kansas, where it is found by Ma and Pa Kent, who raise the Baby Kryptonian as their own darling Clark, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, outrace a speeding bullet, yada, yada.

    Up to now, the various depictions of the destruction of Krypton have all pretty much blamed natural causes (geological instability/solar expansion), war, overweening scientific arrogance or some such. But the new prequel TV show Krypton, set in Kal-El’s grandfather’s time, offers another explanation for Krypton’s destruction. A villain familiar to Superman fans—Brainiac—turns up in a much more menacing form here, threatening to swallow the planet whole. The hero of the show, Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe)—Supe’s young grandfather—must find a way to stop the creature (while fending off a barrage of lesser threats).

    The show allows Superman fans like me a chance to explore the planet and culture of Krypton in a way we’ve never been able to before. We meet the scientific caste, which at one time included the El family (and will again) and the military caste, which includes the Zod family, villains of the future. We even get an eyeful of the original Fortress of Solitude. And we’re introduced to DC Comics’ time-traveling Adam Strange, who comes to warn Seg of what he must do to protect the future.


    By contrast, the comic writers and artists in charge of Action’s Man of Steel have chosen to take the destruction of Krypton in another direction, Their approach gives them leeway to follow dramatic pathways in Supe’s present here on Earth—not a bad thing, really. I won’t spoil it for you in case you want to run out to your nearest comic book store and see for yourself. But Whitbrook is not so constrained in his post, if you just can’t wait to find out.
    In the meantime, lift a glass for the original superhero today and Look! Up in the Sky! It’s Superman!

    Cheers, Donna

    Information for today’s post taken from “Action Comics #1000 Honors 80 Years of Superman with Another Wrinkle in His Origin Story,” by James Whitbrook, io9.com, April 18, 2018. https://io9.gizmodo.com/action-comics-1000-honors-80-years-of-superman-with-an-1825366834
     
     



    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.