Monday, October 14, 2019

#PetsInSpace 4 Week Two NEWS! Number 1 x 3!

Dear Readers,

Yes! Pets in Space® 4 is OUT and I have a very special message for you all:

That's right! Pets in Space® 4 went #1 bestseller at three difference vendors-Amazon, Nook, and Kobo--the evening of it's release! Holy cow and wowsers! We're all beyond thrilled, and especially happy for our charity, Hero Dogs, who will get 10% of all pre-order and first month's royalties!

But the clock on the donation window is ticking down and this is also a limited run. Please don’t wait to buy your copy! Grab Pets in Space® 4 now and get ready to devour another Inherited Stars Series story!

SPECIAL NOTE: There will be NO Kindle Unlimited release for this anthology, so help us help Hero-Dogs and buy your copy of Pets in Space® 4 today during the Hero Dogs donation window.

Get the detailed blurbs for all 13 Pets in Space® 4 stories here

And if you'd like to see two of the earliest reviews, read them here!

Whiskey With My Book Reviews

Both of these review sites are excellent go-to spots for SFR reviews, so definitely add them to your favorites and check back with them often.

Now to tell you a little more about how my Pets in Space® 4 story, SpyDog, fits into the series.

I did something unique for my debut story and first released a book in 2015 that takes place 200 years in the future of the main story line as a glimpse into the past and how the Inherited Stars Universe would change over those two centuries. Granted, some of the clues were subtle, but there was a lot of information packed into that novelette. The title of that work is Farewell Andromeda. The story is chock full of hints of what's to come, what will be discovered, and what has been forgotten in the main series stories. Some of these mysteries tie directly to my newly released Pets in Space® 4 story!

I love a bit of mystery, don't you?

You can read more about the Farewell Andromeda-SpyDog connections on this earlier blog.

As I mentioned, Farewell Andromeda takes place in a future timeline. All of the novels in the current timeline -- The Inherited Stars Series (as opposed to the overall Inherited Stars Universe) are anchored around a specific event, that being Operation Reset, or as it's sometimes referred to, The Great Realignment. Here's a graphic I created to illustrate the series/universe timeline.

The anchor novel Inherit the Stars takes place just prior to, during and after Operation Reset. It centers around Sair and Captain Drea Mennelsohn, key figures in the outcome of Operation Reset -- whether they meant to be or not! -- and both who make appearances or are referred to in the StarDog stories.

Here's the book trailer to tell you a bit more:

The three StarDog stories all have direct ties to events in the main novel, and that's especially true of the newest, SpyDog, which takes place at the same time as the novel and even has a few intersecting scenes and cameos or references to the main and supporting characters in the novel.

StarDog takes place about six months (moons) before Operation Reset, just as tensions are really starting to build between the Network and Ithian Alliance.

The main characters in the story, navigator Taro Shall and street vendor Adini Kemm, get caught up in this struggle quite unexpectedly. The story also reveals a secret about the fate of a member of the Mennelsohn family. StarDog was the original Pets in Space® story that introduced the crafty little mascot/companion dog-cat-weasel-mongoose bioconstructs into my series.

This story has been expanded and revised from the original Pets in Space® 1 story and is a planned release in October-November 2019!

Courting Disaster takes place three years (calendars) after Operation Reset and is also a planned Fall 2019 release. It was originally part of Pets in Space 2: Embrace the Romance and has now been extensively revised, reworked, and re-crafted with expanded and all new scenes and an altered romantic arc making it nearly novel size!

This story explores the aftermath of Operation Reset, and how matters with the former Ithian Alliance might not have been tied up with a bright red bow after all! The main characters are Captain Jagger and Ketsia -- both who were supporting characters in Inherit the Stars.

Here's a graphic I had made for Courting Disaster when it was part of Pets in Space 2: Embrace the Romance. It was created by the talented Carol Van Natta.

Hope you enjoyed this closer look at my series, including the new Pets in Space® 4 release, SpyDog, and the two upcoming releases this fall!

Have a great week.

Friday, October 11, 2019


As I write this on October 10, it is World Mental Health Day. The two lovely fellows you see below (musician Ed Sheeran and Britain's Prince Harry, in case you’ve been living on another planet), preface a serious message about caring for and supporting your friends and neighbors with some light-hearted banter about the abuse they’ve suffered as “gingers” (redheads). You can see the Instagram message here, and go no further if you’d like. I won’t hold it against you.

Ed Sheeran and Prince Harry: Gingers for Mental Health
Because the real subject of today’s blog post, dear readers, is JOKER, Todd Phillips’ latest redefinition of the DC Comics villain and Batman’s nemesis, played to the mesmerizing hilt by actor Joaquin Phoenix. It’s appropriate that I undertake to review this controversial film on a day devoted to mental health, not only because Arthur Fleck, the man who becomes the Joker, is obviously insane, but also because the point of the movie is our society is slowing moving in that direction as well. What we ignore in the least sane of us becomes a problem for the community at large—mass shootings, terrorism, drugs, extremism, even just apathy and isolationism.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Writer/director Phillips (whose experience is primarily with comedies like OLD SCHOOL and HUNGOVER) shaped his film as an origin story for the villain that faces off against the Batman of Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT films. That Batman was tormented, haunted by the death of his parents and unable to escape the darkness within himself. Heath Ledger’s Joker was similarly tortured by his abusive past, but Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix take that step further, implicating not only the personal circumstances that led to Joker’s “creation,” but also Gotham’s role in it.

Arthur Fleck had a horrific childhood, much of which he doesn’t remember, but which has left him damaged. One of the symptoms of his mental illness is an unfortunate compulsion to laugh uncontrollably when stressed or fearful. He’s bullied by just about everyone, even at work in a clowns-for-hire company. If he’s not bullied, he’s avoided for his emaciated looks and “weird” behavior.

Incidents pile up, increasing the pressure on the fragile structure of fantasy he maintains to get through the day. When he intervenes as several drunken young businessmen harass a woman on a subway, the men turn on him and proceed to beat him down—until he pulls out a revolver a coworker has given him after a similar mugging and starts shooting, still in his clown makeup and laughing hysterically all the while. The fact that he saves the woman (and himself) is quickly forgotten. Innocent Young Men Murdered by Manic Clown becomes the headline, but Gotham’s unemployed and exploited see another lesson in the clown’s act of desperation. They make the altercation a wider example of the poor and downtrodden fighting back against the bullying rich. 

Other old assumptions are turned on their heads. Bruce Wayne’s father Thomas, always portrayed as a good-guy philanthropist in every other version of the Batman story, is cold and even cruel in JOKER. Arthur believes Wayne to be his father, based on lies told by his mother (for whom he serves as caregiver). But when he confronts the rich businessman, Wayne debunks that myth by telling him a devastating truth without benefit of sugarcoating. Arthur’s castle of illusion begins to sink into the sand of deception on which it was built, leading to chaos and increasing violence in the last third of the film.

Oddly, the chaos is not in Arthur’s mind now. The more he inhabits “Joker,” the more confident and less delusional he becomes. For example, he longs to be a standup comedian, and, at the midpoint of the film, he’s given his chance to perform onstage at a little club. It’s a disaster; the jokes are unfunny, his stage presence bizarre, and, worst of all, the stress brings out his inappropriate laughter. 

Later in the film, his idol, late night show host Murray Franklin (Robert de Niro in a brilliant piece of casting—the actor has no discernable sense of humor himself), runs a video clip of the performance on his show and mocks him. Then Franklin’s assistant calls Arthur to invite him on the show. But by now Arthur has almost completely attained Joker status. He is no longer the frightened, abused, child-like being he once was.


And when he arrives on Franklin’s stage, he is in full Joker mode—makeup, burgundy suit, green hair, confident, full of intention. (In fact, before the show, he asks Franklin to introduce him as Joker, because that is what the host called him on the air when mocking him earlier.) He says he knows Franklin has only invited him to make fun of him. Then he openly admits his crime in shooting the men on the subway, shocking both host and audience. Finally he asks a question (he calls it a joke): “What do you get when you take a mentally ill person and ignore him all his life? You get what you deserve.”

I won’t tell you what happens next. Perhaps you’ve heard; perhaps you can guess. The act on the stage precipitates the end of the film—rioting in the streets, an attempted rescue of Joker by his demented “followers,” his eventual incarceration in Arkham Asylum. If you are a DC Comics fan, you know this isn’t the end of his story; it’s the beginning.

The Joker celebrates his birth.
This interpretation of the Joker character has ignited a firestorm of controversy and a corresponding ashfall of dissatisfied reviews. Most of them center on the idea that this is some kind of apology for Joker’s evil-doing. It is no such thing. This is not justification for murder and mayhem on a large scale; it is explanation, which I think we could all use. Phillips does not ask us to root for Arthur Fleck (and by extension Joker) so much as understand him. The suggestion is that if we understand, we can do something to divert others like him.

Joaquin Phoenix’s astounding performance can only be viewed in this context. You cannot look away from the pathos and eerie fascination of the character he has created onscreen, a character fully formed out of the writers’ backstory and Phoenix’s artistry. Arthur Fleck is a human being with an eternal soul, which he eventually trades for survival in this world—as the newly invented Joker. The transformation is stunning to watch.

But the real message is for us. With every new mass shooting, every new act of terrorism or extremism, we ask: Is it the guns? Is it mental illness? What can be done? And in the end, we throw up our hands and answer, Nothing. Nothing can be done.

It’s interesting to me that Joker wreaks all his havoc on Gotham with a six-shot revolver that was given to Arthur Fleck. Arthur hardly knows what to do with it at first and tries without success to give it back or get rid of it. But he hardly needs an AR15. The people around him all his life and the citizens of Gotham give him all the help he needs to become an agent of mass murder. And as we leave the theater after witnessing his final act of violence, when we’re certain Arthur has disappeared and only Joker remains, the strains of Murray Franklin’s theme song follow us up the aisle:

Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Holiday reading for lovers of SFR

Looking for some super cheap holiday reading or a gift for a friend?
Have I got a deal for you!

No, really.

The Star Crossed boxed set includes 7 full-length novels that explore the future without forgetting that the most dangerous battles will always be within the human heart.

Aliens, AI, cyborgs, galactic empires, space battles, and romance...this is sci-fi to fall in love with! Join authors
  • Lindsay Buroker 
  • Christine Pope
  • Carol VanNatta 
  • Alexis Glynn Latner
  • Pauline Baird Jones 
  • C. Gockel
  • and me, Greta van der Rol
in future worlds filled with action, adventure, and romance.

 Download it today. It's FREE everywhere!

Amazon US
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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.