Friday, July 31, 2020

COVID RULE #1: AVOID THE SITUATION

As the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the U.S., with infections topping four million and deaths galloping past 150,000, I continue to search for ways to rally my fellow Americans around the flag of simple prophylactic actions. Yes, Beavis and Butthead, I said “prophylactic,” as in preventative, protective, and precautionary.

The simplest of these, of course, is wearing a mask in public. If we know anything about the coronavirus at all, we know it is spread through coughing, sneezing, breathing, talking, laughing, singing and otherwise ejecting microdroplets of exhaled air through the mouth and nose. This can happen even when you don’t show symptoms of the disease—before you get sick, or even if you never actually become ill. This disease is an insidious silent invader that infects a significant (as yet unknown) proportion of its victims with mild or no symptoms, allowing it to spread quickly in a community that doesn’t take action. Only by insisting that everyone cover his or her mouth and nose can the spread of the disease be prevented.

Who says a mask has to be dorky?

But suppose you don’t particularly care about all that. Maybe you’re young and healthy and you're not afraid of no freaking virus! You’ve got important things to do. This coronavirus thing is a hoax anyway, the TV says so. A mask is hot and uncomfortable. It makes you look dorky. Besides, a mask can’t really keep you from getting the virus. You read that on Facebook.

When I hear arguments like this, I’m reminded of my days studying self-defense in the karate dojo. My sensei (teacher) used to say the First Rule of Self-Defense is Avoid the Situation. That is, it’s better to avoid a fight altogether than to be forced test your karate skills against an opponent who may have better skills than yours. So, don’t go out to your car in a deserted, unlit parking lot by yourself. Don’t leave the bar at 2:00 in the morning in an inebriated state. Don’t take the shortcut through the dark alley in a bad part of town. If someone challenges you to a fight outside the west entrance to the school at 3:00, go out the east entrance and go home.

Going without a mask in this time of plague is like taking a walk through a dark alley at midnight in a bad part of town. You don’t know who you might meet in that alley. He might be much bigger than you and have much better fighting skills. (Sensei used to say there is always someone out there with better fighting skills no matter how good you are.) Coronavirus strikes me as that kind of opponent. You might not meet him in that alley. You might be able to beat him. But chances are at least as good that you will lose—and lose badly.

Why take that chance? Wear a mask when you go to the grocery store or the hardware store or anywhere else you need to go. Get several in colors and designs you like so you don’t feel dorky. Keep one or two in your car so you don’t forget. Cover your mouth and nose. Be nice to the people who are tasked with enforcing mask rules—their lives are hell right now. Encourage your friends and family members to wear masks, too.

And while you’re at it, keep your distance and wash your hands. Those are rules we should have learned in kindergarten. No harm in being reminded of them now.

Cheers and stay well, Donna


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

What's In A (Character's) Name?

How much thought do you give to Naming your characters?

When choosing character names, I try using names that represent the characters. In Renegade (Survival Race book 3), the hero is called Griffin. A griffin is part lion (king of the beasts) and part eagle (king of the skys). The name works for my hero on two levels. First, he was a prince, so giving him a name that meant king of all creatures was fitting. Second, gentleman Griffin must become a survival race gladiator in order to win a spaceship to bring his people to freedom. Griffin must slay all the “beasts” (the last man alive wins this blood sport) to take to the sky.


The heroine’s name is Katana. I thought the name of a Japanese sword was perfect for my female gladiator. As Griffin explains to Katana, “Names reveal something about us. Take yours, for instance. A katana is a single-edge bladed weapon. It’s unique. It’s curved. It’s sleek and sharp. It can protect, and it can destroy. I’d say that’s a pretty good description of you.”

How much thought do you give to Nicknaming your characters?

In addition to giving my characters a name with meaning, I also consider what my characters will call each other. In CAPTIVE (Survival Race #1), the hero, Max, was abducted from Earth fifteen years ago and forced to compete in the survival races. He is a loner who sees himself as nothing more than a beast. He protects his heart by referring to the heroine as “woman” rather than by her name. I took the idea from the belief that you shouldn’t name the animals you are going to slaughter and eat. It’s a way to keep distance. This excerpt shows “stud” Max and “broodmare” Addy building a snow shelter one night after escaping HuBReC (The Human Breeding and Research Center), and Addy finally getting fed up with Max’s name for her.

“Your Earth life isn’t completely dead in you,” Addy said.

“Yes, it is.”

“Nuh-uh. I distinctly remember you singing an eighties’ rock ballad in the breeding box. Albeit, you whistled the beginning, skipped the whole song, and went right to the end, but still, it proves you haven’t let go of home altogether.”

“That was strategy.” He removed the chunks of ice.

“Right. You were trying to have patience with me.”

“No. I was trying to act like I did in college so you’d have sex with me.”

She saw a flash of dark sky when her eyes rolled. “Max, the big college stud.”

He jerked away. “I wasn’t a stud until HuBReC.”

A weight fell on her heart. Here she was trying to breathe some life back inside him, but instead of helping him find good memories to grasp, she reminded him of being an animal. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that. I just wanted to know—”

“Hell, woman, I don’t want to discuss it.”

“I have a name.” She threw two handfuls of snow in his face. “And it’s not Hell Woman.”

Eventually when Max does call her by name it becomes a pivotal scene, and a dramatic shift in their relationship.

In FEARLESS (Survival Race #2), the hero calls the heroine Savage. She is a spiritual healer (with anger issues) from a lowland village and he is the Highland’s warlord king. While the king tries using brains over brawn, he is still a gladiator at heart and deals with things physically. Here is an excerpt showing how they received their nicknames for each other.

Angry red streaks snaked through Kedric’s aura. “What manner of trickery is this?”

“Get off of me, barbarian.” Name-calling? Really? Had Father taught her nothing?

“Barbarian? That’s funny coming from a savage.”

She gasped. “Savage? You’re the one on top of me.”

“As I recall, I wouldn’t be on top of you if I hadn’t needed to protect myself from your tricks.”

“I am a spiritual healer. I want to repair your soul. You must release my people.”

“You needn’t concern yourself. My spirit requires no healing.”

“So say you. But our spirits have met, and yours told me it hid a deep wound. Let me back in. Let me into your body to heal you.”

He smirked. “If anyone enters another’s body, it’ll be me.” His warm lips pressed against hers. As if to prove his point, his tongue coaxed hers to open for him.

She’d been kissed before, but not from a man so dangerous and commanding, or so good at it.

Well, she wasn’t about to waste the opportunity to do what she came here for, especially since nothing in his aura indicated malicious intent. His spirit simply sought to demonstrate his male dominance in a kiss. Nothing more. Ha. He’d learn who the dominant one was when she connected with his spirit again.

She opened her mouth and kissed him back. His pause indicated surprise. He’d obviously expected her to resist. When she didn’t let up, his jaw relaxed, and his kiss deepened. She couldn’t deny the freedom her soul felt, but she’d come to heal his heart, and as much as she’d like to succumb to the pleasure, she needed to heal him first.

Again retreating to that tranquil place in her mind, her spirit gathered energy and jumped from her body into his. Her spirit didn’t get further than the impenetrable stone wall before it was ejected again.

His lips were off hers. The weight of his body disappeared. The influx of warm night air came as a relief.

“Savage,” he boomed. “Stay out of my body.”

“If you enter my body, barbarian, rest assured I will enter yours.”

At first, the two adversaries use these nicknames to demean each other, but as their relationship grows and they come to respect each other and eventually fall in love, the names take on different meanings and become terms of endearment.

How do your characters feel about the names others call them?

In RENEGADE (Survival Race #3), Griffin, a gentleman turned gladiator, doesn’t like that Katana shortens his name. Here is their discussion about it during the survival race semifinals.

“Come on, Griff,” Katana waved him on.”

He inhaled deeply, savoring his last crisp, breath of safety, and crossed the orange pennants into the survival zone. Why did she insist on shortening his name? Two syllables didn’t take much more effort to say than one. “It’s Griffin. Griff-in. Say it with me, now. It’s not difficult.”

“Someone’s touchy.”

Of course, he was touchy. They could be attacked at any minute. They could die at any time. His nerves couldn’t take the constant stress.

“Relax. We’ll be fine.” Apparently, she read the fear in his face. “We’re not hiking in anyone’s footsteps. And the land is wide open. We’ll see or hear threats in plenty of time to react.”

Her logical assessment didn’t ease the anxiety. How could she remain calm? His insides jumped like a scared rabbit. 

“Out of curiosity…” Her tone flowed as smooth and unhurried as her footfalls in the snow. “Why do you care so much about what you’re called?” 

“Because Griffin is my proper name. Given to me by my mother. If she wanted me to be called Griff, she would have named me Griff.”

“People shorten names all the time.” Her eyes met his. “Except you. You’ve never called me Kat, like most people do.”

“It’s a matter of respect. You introduced yourself as Katana. Who am I to make up another name for you?”

“Some people like nicknames. It shows a special bond.”

“Do you like the nickname Saj gave you?” 

She cringed.

“Would you like me to call you that, too?”

“Only if you’d like to wake up dead.”

You can find out what nickname Katana’s former lover, Saj, called her, as well as learn how Griffin persuades Katana to call him by his real name in RENEGADE. Available this Friday, July 31. Preorder your copy now. Catch up on the first two book in the series CAPTIVE and FEARLESS.

Do you have an unusual nickname that you call your significant other? What about your characters? If so, tell me the story behind the name in the comments!

Stay safe out there!

K.M. Fawcett
Romance for the Rebel Heart


Monday, July 27, 2020

Today's "Flash Blog"



...Laurie took a brief hiatus from Spacefreighters Lounge.

 -- The End --


Enjoy these memes of wisdom and whimsy until I return.













Have a great week (...or two???)




Friday, July 24, 2020

THE OLD GUARD, A NEW BLOG AND SPECULATIVE ROMANCE


Last week I promised a review of THE OLD GUARD starring Charlize Theron, a new take on the old superhero trope on Netflix, and I do plan to give you at least a mini-review of the film here. But some other news has bumped that item from the starting line-up.

Speculative Romance Replaces Paranormal. First of all, as I reported in an earlier post, the Romance Writers of America® has replaced its outmoded RITA® contest for published works with a new VIVIAN contest. The VIVIAN boasts a list of objective criteria for judging, mandatory judge training and a new category to replace (at least in part) the dear departed Golden Heart® contest for unpublished works. The committee working on the contest revamp has asked for, and taken to heart, feedback from members on the draft made public several weeks ago. One change we Skiffy Rommers can all applaud is a revision of the category name under which our works would compete.

Previously, any science fiction romance entry would be submitted under “paranormal romance,” along with all the supernatural, magical, fantasy and “other” sorts of titles out there. We will still have to compete with those stories, but at least the name of the category will give some hint that spaceships and distant planets are welcome among the shapeshifters and vamps. Instead of “paranormal romance,” we will now compete under “speculative romance.” It’s a small change, yes, but still a significant improvement, and shows the “new RWA®” is making a good faith effort to open the door to a wider base of authors.

Remember that for this first year of the contest (2020), titles published in both 2019 and 2020 will be eligible. I think we should flood RWA® with excellent SFR entries and make our case for our own category in the future.

Website Upgrade and A Blog of My Own. You may not have visited my website for a while, but I had been working with an outdated version of the host software for some time, giving me less security and functionality. I finally broke down and upgraded to a new site with the same server so I could add a dedicated blog and up to 50 pages of stuff to show off my books. Go on over and take a look! The site gives me a personal blog separate from Spacefreighters Lounge that I can feed to Goodreads or to my Facebook page. That means more posts and, well, less liability for my blog partners if I happen to go on a rant. The blog is called Across the Multiverse. Check out this week’s post about a Constitutional challenge in Portland here.

Charlize Theron as Andy in Netflix's THE OLD GUARD

And, finally, your mini-review. Now, I lo-o-o-ve me some Charlize Theron in an action film. I thought she was straight up brilliant as the Imperator Furiosa in 2015’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. So, the idea of Theron in the role of Andy, or Andromache of Scythia, a centuries-old leader of a band of near-immortal mercenaries-for-good in Netflix’s THE OLD GUARD, was one I couldn’t pass up. Add the fact that this film, based on the graphic novel series by Greg Rucka, was directed by Black American filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood of LOVE AND BASKETBALL and SECRET LIFE OF BEES and you could be sure I’d be watching.


The film seems to start in the middle, with a close-knit group of fighters before they take on a new mission in Africa. Not to give away any spoilers here, but the mission turns out to be a trap, which is how we learn our heroes are, um, not exactly vulnerable to death on the battlefield.

In the meantime, a separate storyline introduces Nile (played by Kiki Layne of IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK), a young Black American woman serving as a soldier in the Middle East. Nile also discovers the hard way that she doesn't die easy, making her ripe for recruitment into the Old Guard. 


Theron and her team retrieve Nile from the desert before her fellow soldiers can start asking awkward questions. The problem is the newbie isn’t too keen on joining this league of immortal superheroes. She doesn’t want to take on their missions, whatever they are. And she really doesn’t want any part of this weird not-dying stuff. 
Nile’s “education” is a rote part of this kind of comic book plot. Predictably, not only Andy, but each of the other members of the crew pull Nile aside for a talk (telling their own stories in the process) to get her on board.

The team’s motivation—destroying the evil scientist/megalomaniac who wants the secret of their power—is nothing particularly new, either. Here the villain is a billionaire tech nerd determined to discover and monetize the secret of the Old Guard’s immortality. The concept might work better if the actor playing him (Harry Melling of HARRY POTTER fame) was able to scare up a little menace. Not a chance there, I’m afraid. So you have all that superpower pitted against a comparative pipsqueak.

The twist to THE OLD GUARD, though, lies in Theron’s character, Andy. As the oldest of the crew (and their leader), she has seen the most, done the most, lost the most. She is tired, weary to the bone. Theron is well able to communicate this, though certainly nothing about her lithe, muscular figure or her lightning quick reflexes in a fight betrays this, at least at the beginning of the film. 

But Andy is hiding something, a secret the others only suspect may be true about their kind. Death comes for every living thing, and, after all these centuries, time is finally running out for Andy. Her vulnerability adds depth to the proceedings, much like Superman’s susceptibility to kryptonite makes him more “human.”

Like all good superhero movies, THE OLD GUARD leaves plenty of room for sequels. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying it ends on a high note, with the group fired up with a new sense of purpose and ready for new adventures. It also hints at dark unresolved issues from the past that can come back to haunt Andy and her crew—those are always good for creating new villains and conflict. 

I’d love to see more OLD GUARD movies on Netflix. (There are four graphic novels in the original Rucka series to serve as plot fodder.) With the success the film has been having on the streaming service, chances are good we’ll get the sequels we’ve been clamoring for. Netflix projects some 70 million households will view the film in four weeks, placing it at Number Six in the all-time viewership list. The best part is that all this mainstream acclamation is rising for director Gina Prince-Blythewood, who brings her unique perspective to her work. Just goes to show that graphic novels, superheroes, action/adventure and kickass females are not the purview of white fanboys alone. (Check out the expanded review on my podcast at My Moviehouse My Rules.)

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.