Friday, February 29, 2008

My Favorite Photos with a Sci-Fi Theme: #4

#4 Moonshadows

This view of a be-spotted Jupiter (more spottier than usual, I should say) is a result of several of the gas giant's moons in the foreground or leaving their shadow on the face of the planet. Love the pastels in this pic, too. Jupiter normally resembles tomato-soup-with-milk-just-added.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gems From the Blogs: Pitfalls to Avoid

OK, everyone else is doing this, and I see the value, so I'll hop on the cargo ship (no bandwagons in space) and start doing these background notes, too.

What I'm reading: HOW TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN 10 DAYS by Susan Grant
What I'm writing: One final "spiff" of P2PC and beginning edits on Draxis
What I'm critiqueing: Recently reworked opening chapters of Arlene's original-concept SF, Dawn's incredibly cool Sci-Fi Rom/military and Alien Romance, Flick's dynamite erotica, and a new Sci-Fi Rom by Marisha I discovered on CC (I'm hooked).

Everything I read about "what to do " and "what editors are looking for" gets me more excited about P2PC. Some recent articles said (I'm paraphrasing):

It has to have a fabulous opening hook, but not lack plot substance after that. Oh, got that covered! The opening hook--a bid for freedom--is the tip of the iceberg. The plot is "ambitious" to say the least.

The characters have to grow. Another check. The three main MCs and some of the minor characters as well, learn from each other, from their pasts, and from what they are attempting to achieve. Sometimes you have to stretch your principles to accomplish goals that aren't just about what you want, but what is ultimately the right thing to do. Tough choices don't come without heartache, and true change isn't wrought without great sacrifice.

It has to have a fresh spin. I've never read another book with a character quite like my male MC (Sair) and my critiquers have all seconded that opinion. My goal was also to write a Sci-Fi that would appeal to a very broad romance audience by keeping the science within comfortable parameters--elements seen before but used in different ways--and to explore the aspect of technology impacting human interaction.

The characters can't be cliched. I think I've avoided most of the pitfalls of 'typical romance characters' and 'typical science ficion characters' as well as framing the story with humorous (at least from the female perspective) role-reversal.

If I see another hardened female character who'd rather shoot males than kiss them, I'll scream. While one of the female MCs is definitely of the tough-as-nails ilk, she also has a softer side, and is willing, eventually, to admit when she's wrong.

Time to get back to work. I'll keep you posted.

New Link Added

I've added a link of great interest to my "My Favorite Martians...Fellow Pilots" list at the right. Romantic Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels features reviews, industry news and more. Check it out.

My Favorite Photos With a Sci-Fi Theme: #5

#5 The Eskimo Nebula

It isn't too hard to see how this nebula got its name. It resembles a face peering out from inside a fur-lined hood. The Eskimo Nebula is the glowing remains of a dying star blasted outward from its center. Remarkable.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Favorite Photos with a Sci-Fi Theme: #6

#6 A Death Star Galaxy

A so-called Death Star Galaxy blasts a ray of energy at its neighbor. This violent cosmic event is a prelude to mass murder. If such a Death Star Galaxy were to blast the Milky Way, chances are all life on Earth would be destroyed. Sobering thought.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Favorite Photos With a Sci-Fi Theme: #7

#7 Where Stars Are Born

A glimpse at a region of space where young stars are in the process of being created. Those bright blue dots are new stars. Looks more like an artist's rendering than a photograph, doesn't it? A truly awe-inspiring sight.

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Favorite Photos With a Sci-Fi Theme: #8

#8 The Mysterious Red Square

Nothing to do with the Earth-based site of Russian fame, the Mysterious Red Square is a mystery--the most geometrical object ever photographed in space. It is beautiful to behold. Reminds me a bit of those yarn God's Eyes that were so popular as wall hangings in the 80s.

In Memory of Mom

As many of you may have heard, my mother passed away on February 5th, ten days after suffering a stroke. It's been a time of real genuflection, sorting out and self-assessment for me. While going through some of her papers, I discovered several pages of notes she'd written on one of my early and as yet unmarketable novels, (you guessed it) a Science Fiction Romance.
Many moons ago, I gave Mom the "completed" manuscript [with clenched teeth and held breath] to read and tell me what she thought. I was a nervous wreck. This was long before I developed a network of IPs (Indispensable Peers) and no one had ever seen any of my work. Mom was an avid reader, so I knew it would take a lot to impress her and, well, being that she was Mom, I didn't expect to get a glowing report on my story. I was more than a little surprised by the outcome. She wrote out a list of things she felt needed to be addressed which was beyond valuable for me (my first real critique!) and along with it five magic little words that meant the world--no, the universe--to me: "I couldn't put it down."

In her memory, I've added a brief acknowledgement at the beginning of that novel. I think it says it all.

For Mom

My first critiquer

My greatest fan

I miss you.

This novel is one of two Science Fiction Romances that I plan to finishing editing in 2008.

In Memory of Mom

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Favorite Photos With a Sci-Fi Theme: #9

#9. Pluto and Charon and Hydra and Nix, oh my!

A glimpse of the farthest known planets in our solar system, Pluto and Charon, though Pluto's identity as a planet or planetoid is under debate. The two smaller dots are Pluto's recently discovered moons, named Hydra and Nix. Now I ask you, if Pluto has two moons of its own, shouldn't it be granted recognition as a full-blown planet?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Favorite Photos with a Sci-Fi Theme

#10. Comet and Windmill

A 1997 shot of the Hale-Bopp comet. What a spectacular photo! To have been standing in the photographer's shoes seeing this in person must have been an amazing experience. Humbling, but amazing. I love how the windmill gives the comet scale in the night sky. It's massive.

This photo leads off a series of ten of my favorite photos with a science-fiction theme. I'll try to post one each day. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Zero hour.

P2PC has made its first launch into Query Land.

After re-reading my pitch at least fifty times (looking for typos and commas and caps--oh my!) and keeping my hand posed over the send button for somewhere around thirty minutes, I dug deep to find the courage to "make the jump" (as Drea would say) to the marketing stratosphere. I hope someday I'll look back on this moment and laugh.

Writing the pitch was a true frontier. It was very difficult to capture the elements that really get the story rolling--a desparate bid for freedom that sends main character, Sair, off on a wild ride. Hopefully, I did it justice. It is certainly the tip of the iceberg (tip of the comet?) scenario.

Thanks to everyone for your encouragement and support in getting this one to the launchpad.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why I Write Science Fiction Romance

Since it's Valentine's week, I thought I'd focus on why I write what I write: Science Fiction Romance. Short answer, it's what I love to read. Long answer, it seems to be a never-ending source of fascination and inspiration for my muse.

Science Fiction Romance is a sub-genre, or even a sub-sub-genre--no one's really sure--of a much bigger romance market. It's sometimes dubbed Speculative Romance and lumped in with Fantasy Romance. Personally, I prefer the term Extraordinary Romance. Extraordinary Romances have characters with normal human thoughts, fears, desires, and emotions, but they happen to live in an extraordinary setting such as a distant planet, an alternate dimension or in an unknown future. These extraordinary settings can throw all kinds of curves into the characters' relationships that are sooooo much fun to write.

I tried my hand at writing contemporary and historical romances. To say it wasn't my thing would be an understatement. I wrote one (horrible) contemporary and attempted an historical that immediately morphed into a time travel romance. After that I realized I was wasting my time trying to pen stories that my muse wanted to punch holes in to escape. My imagination needs elbow room. It requires the freedom to stretch out and manipulate the universe. It can't adhere to historical facts or the realism of modern life. Too confining. Can't fence this muse in.

New strategy: Let the Muse win.
Sci-Fi Rom it is. :)

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Spacefreighters Lounge has reached a new landmark...

>>>>> 2,500 hits! <<<<<

The Billins is on the house.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Armed and Magical (ARC) Book Review

By Lisa Shearin
Ace Books
Urban Fantasy
Release date: April 2008

OPENING NOTES FROM THE REVIEWER: If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I try to avoid spoilers for potential readers. Knowing what’s going to happen takes the joy out of the journey. But pardon me while I take a moment to enthuse. (Is that a word?) This is, without a doubt, one of the best reads I’ve had in a long, long time. There are twists, turns, shocks and surprises—all contained in a fast-paced story. Unpredictable would be an understatement and the witty dialogue, both spoken and internal, is exceptional.

ARMED AND MAGICAL is the much anticipated Raine Benares Adventure sequel to MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND. I read it in a day. I could not stop. It rolled from one engrossing, hooky scene to the next. There is much to discover and some absolute pound-fists-on-the-table-and-kick-heels-in-glee surprises. Raine has one heck of a penchant for getting herself in the most awkward, intriguing spots. And when she isn’t immersed in a situation full of terrific humor, she’s up to her ears in bite-your-nails creepiness.

On to the elements…

COVER ART: My opinion is based on the artwork posted on Lisa Shearin’s website, since the ARC arrived in a plain gray wrapper. As with MLTF, excellent use of color and Raine’s “Girl With Attitude” expression shines through. As with the first book, I love the active font used for the title. It’s fun, unorthodox, charming and suggests magical influence—perfect for the story. Readers seemed to have a love/hate relationship with MLTF artwork and I’m sure the same will be true for ARMED AND MAGICAL, but as covers go, in my opinion these are two of the best Fantasy covers I’ve seen.

INITIAL IMPRESSION: “Adventure” is too weak of a description for this grab-you-by-the-collar first chapter. By page 6, Raine’s got trouble—BIG trouble—and I’m once again pulled right into the crux of the action by the first person POV as villains pop out of the woodwork, a major character is in jeopardy, and an innocent is snatched. We’re off!

MAIN CHARACTERS: Raine Benares is a seeker, a finder of lost things, and a sorceress of moderate powers. Make that a world-wise, quick-witted, been-around-the-block-a-few-times sorceress from a family of rogues and criminals. She’s savvy and unpredictable, and you never know what she might say next. Tell Raine to keep quiet? Not gonna happen. In MLTF, she found something she wasn’t looking for that attached itself to her with the tenacity of a Pit Bull. Mychael Eiliesor, a fellow elf, Conclave Guardian and paladin (read that: top cop) came into her life to help her shake off her disturbing accessory, but his job often puts him at odds with her instincts. Tam, nightclub owner, exotic bad boy, and goblin with a dubious past also finds himself entangled in Raine’s business, though an entanglement of a different sort is more what he has in mind. This is no static triangle; the balance of the three sides often shifts in dramatic fashion.

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: Phaelan, Raine’s underhanded pirate cousin, a bad companion with good intentions in MLTF, is outrageously endearing in A/M in a very “Jack Sparrow” sort of way. Phaelan is, without a doubt, devious and conniving, which at times is just what Raine needs to get her out of a jam. Piaras, Raine’s young friend and adopted “kid brother” is a spellsinger student who lands himself smack in the middle of the action. Talon Tandu is a young, seductive, half-blood with a surprise legacy that gets him swept up in the turmoil. Tanik Ozal, is a not altogether trustworthy competitor turned ally of Phaelan’s. There are many more characters and it’s important to remember the names and roles of each, as they often make encore appearances.

VILLAIN: As with MLTF, there are many who might qualify as “villain material,” but two stand out in their special charming, slithery way. Sarad Nukpana is back in all his evil glory, and Rudra Muralin, a goblin with a dark past (or make that an even darker past than most goblins) presents a new force for Raine to contend with.

OTHER CHARACTERS: There is a large and well-drawn contingent of minor characters, including loyal Guardians, corrupt officials, seedy minions, and an overbearing, malevolent librarian that reigns over his turf like a dark thundercloud.

WORLD BUILDING: The imaginative world in MLTF continues on the shores of the Isle of Mid where a citadel, academic structures, government buildings, embassies, and nightclubs may have shadowy basements, tunnels, cells, and secret passageways. In this fantasy world, the threat of a lawsuit is sometimes just as imposing as the threat of violence.

CONFLICT: In a nutshell, Raine can never be sure when her connections are acting in her best interest or their own, and even the experts may make the wrong call when it comes to her safety. Her wits manage to get her into and out of some very tight situations. Conclave Guardian Mychael is her self-appointed protector, but Raine resists being protected, and coming from a family of criminals that view Mychael’s sort with suspicion, she has doubts about his true motivations. Tam has a damning secret, and when Raine discovers who and what he was—and may still be—she is smart enough to heed his warnings. Or try to.

ROMANCE: There’s steam aplenty between Raine and Mychael, but things absolutely crackle between Raine and Tam, the goblin with a pension for showing up in unexpected places at unpredictable times with electric results. Although this couldn’t be classified as a romance I think there are more than enough scenes to satisfy readers who believe no story is complete without some romantic interaction between the main characters.

READABILITY: It is a rare case where a sequel bests the original in brilliant style. MLTF was a delight. ARMED AND MAGICAL is even better. The lightning pace makes for a quick, engrossing read, but real-life elements like politics and legal matters add rich complexity and twists to the story. The element of surprise is always present. You just never know what…or who…might pop up next.

EVIL AUTHORS GUILD STAMP OF APPROVAL: The Evil Authors Guild exists to encourage writers to inflict appropriate amounts of terror, angst and emotional torture into their characters’ lives, and to leave them twisting in the wind at every opportunity. Oh my, yes. Enthusiastic endorsement here.

MOST QUOTABLE QUOTE(S): Sooo many fantastic quotes in this one, but I don’t want to spoil all the fun, so here are a few gems just for flavor:

“In my family, that’s not silence, it’s reloading.”

“Safe is relative.”

“Most girls get flowers or candy. I get a declaration of martial law.”

MAGIC QUOTIENT: Magic is used in imaginative and surprising ways and in at least one scene had me ROFL at the irony when Raine takes on a very convincing disguise and suffers the consequences. Paybacks are hell, huh, Raine?

SECOND READ: There’s so much going on here—character-wise, politics-wise, and plot-wise, that this one is great for multiple reads.

OVERALL RATING: If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I don’t rate on a number scale. Each novel is like sightseeing in a strange city. You learn about the territory as you go. I rate ARMED AND MAGICAL as a New Orleans (during Mardi Gras). So much to discover, a rich culture steeped in tradition and its unique brand of music, but with a few alligators lurking in the sewers, and you never know what you’ll find when you turn the next corner, or what ghosts might haunt the neighborhood. If you love an imaginative Fantasy romp with a winning blend of laugh-out-loud humor and chilling suspense, this novel is a “Must Read.” Look for it in April 2008.