Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Surchur: Beta Search Engine

I stumbled across this new beta search engine the other day--Surchur--and thought I'd give it a whirl. Click the link to see what it netted for Science Fiction Romance which included snippets from various blogs (including this one) and web sites that contained the subject.

Although the ads are a little annoying, it was a bit of fun searching for my favorite books, authors and miscellaneous topics of interest.

Give it a try and see what you think.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Creating Your Space Military Workshop

Don't miss this special workshop being conducted by Michael L. Helfstein of the USNR(Ret) and award-winning SFR author, Linnea Sinclair: Creating Your Space Military Workshop.

The event information on the web site summarizes the focus of the workshop as follows: "to mix real military facts with paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy inventions to create the space fleet, alien paramilitary, or alternate universe armed forces you need for your science fiction or urban fantasy novel."

The workshop is being sponsored by the RWA FF&P (Fantasty, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter) and you do not need to be a member to enroll.  The class will be conducted via Yahoo email loop from January 4 through January 31.  Cost is $25 for non-members and $10 for members. 

Just want to add, if you write SFR, are a RWA member and not yet a member of FF&P, I highly recommend joining.  Most of this special chapter's events are conducted online, including regular workshops, chats, interviews and blog articles, and they also host a special dinner and awards event at the annual RWA national conference.  It's a great way to mix with your peers and hear all the latest SFR news.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

John Scalzi: Master of the Long Hook

This is a brief commentary on my latest reading project: THE GHOST BRIGADES.

In my previous progressive review of THE OLD MAN’S WAR by John Scalzi, I made a statement that it took about 20 pages to really get hooked and I was very happy some brilliant editor somewhere gave his debut novel a chance, because it doesn’t have one of those edge-of-your-seat/must-turn-the-page-NOW hooks we’ve come to expect in published fiction, of late.

THE GHOST BRIGADES, which is the sequel to THE OLD MAN’S WAR follows suit, but the long hook is even more masterfully done. This time the reader is introduced to a character and his assistant who are in their working environment—a laboratory--with glimpses of their glib humor and their close personal relationship, and then the utter terror they feel as they realize their planet is being invaded. Scalzi takes you along on a tense journey as the principle character is escorted off in an attempt to escape—or at least hide from—the brutal invading forces. The military officer who’s sent to help him warns the scientist he would make a prime catch for the alien invaders battering at the door and he must do everything—everything—in his power to avoid letting him be captured. And then, when the scientist faces certain doom, Scalzi throws a curve that makes the reader (this one, anyone) say “Whoaaa!” I’ve seen this sort of twist before in Science Fiction, but never with the absolute finesse of the Long Hook Master of the Universe. Welcome to Scalzi’s world.

THE GHOST BRIGADES, like OLD MAN'S WAR, proved to be a smart, fast, gripping read with heavy doses of wry humor and a way of making the reader look at life and human nature in whole new ways. Even lacking any sort of romance (though it does carry a hint of a developing romance if you know how the story unfolded in the first novel) this is a brilliant, irony-laced look into a future that may someday be—with or without the alien threat.

I highly recommend both OLD MAN'S WAR and THE GHOST BRIGADES as required reading for SFR writers.  John Scalzi has a way of making impossible scientific, human, mlitary and moral dilemmas utterly fascinating and the intelligent, relatable characters of this entertaining saga will keep you flipping pages late into the night.  (Oh wait, that was me.)

I became especially focused on Jane Sagan, a character from OLD MAN'S WAR who, although she isn't the MC, plays a major role in THE GHOST BRIGADES.  I was privy to some of her thoughts and motivations from the first book, and my silent lament "Please don't let Jane Sagan die!" added even more layers of suspense to the read.  (I won't reveal her fate, but she takes the term "totally believable kick-ass, selfless female soldier" to a level I've never seen before.)

Now....on to book three, THE LAST COLONY.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Avatar: My Take on a $200M SFR Epic

Yes, you read that right.  Avatar is SFR.

There's been a lot of buzz about the recently released (James Cameron) motion picture that most refer to as a Science Fiction Adventure.  While that may be the case, Avatar is also a spectacular Science Fiction Romance, having all the required elements of speculative science, compelling love story and happy ending for the two MCs.  Here's a brief review of Avatar from a SFR fanatic.

Science:  ***** Five stars for imaginative and visually stunning science, from hypersleep transport to futuristic military logistics to indiginous emersion.  Breathtaking imagery.

Fiction:  **** Four stars.  Set on an alien "planet" (actually a moon orbiting a decidedly Jupiter-like blue gas giant), the inhabitants thrived in an environment that is non-conducive to human life.  While the fiction setting was stunning and the cinematography and/or graphics was gorgeous, some of the elements were borrowed or a melting pot of SF ideas.

Romance: **** Four stars.  A compelling romance with strong conflict and a hero that overcomes a seemingly impossible situation.

Setting: *****  Five stars.  A living world, Pandora, with its lush green jungle by day and phosphorescent paradise by night, is inhabited by strange beasts, both dangerous and docile, that seem to remind us of creatures in our own experience (horse, panther, rhino)--but not quite.  What's not to love?

Plot: ***  Three stars.  I summed it up on another blog as Dances With Wolves meets Star Wars.  The story was a little weak and predictable, but with the sensory stimuli, visual wisardry and moral message bombardment, a complex plot would probably have put me into overload.

Characters: ****  Four stars.  The villain was a bit too cast in the Snidely Whiplash mode, but I did enjoy Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriquez) who played a gutsy pilot who respected the environment of Pandora and was ultimately placed in a situation of choosing between duty and personal belief.  The early antagonism between Sigourney Weaver's intellectual scientist and wheelchair bound ex-marine Jake Sully was worth more than a few chuckles.

Resolution: ***  Three stars.  I always enjoy a satisfying ending, but this one left a little to be desired in the wrap-up.  The open-ended question?  What would eventually become of this world, the MCs and the inhabitants, since the conflict of indiginous culture vs. priceless resource remained for a whole new set of characters to grapple with.  Or maybe that was the whole point--a sequel.

Overall rating:  **** A MUST SEE solid four stars.  As long as you aren't expecting pure perfection, this film will entertain, delight, make you angry and make you cheer.  Several members of the audience offered enthusiastic applause after the film ended.  I haven't experienced that since long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away when Star Wars VI wrapped the first trilogy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Champion is BORN!

Skiffy Rommers everywhere may finally have what we've been hoping for for a long time now--and something major to celebrate!

A Science Fiction Romance Champion! 

Sherrilyn Kenyon's SFR/Futuristic "League" series is on a roll, started when the first in the series, BORN OF NIGHT reached #4 on the New York Times Bestseller list (#11 on the USA Today Bestsellers list) in October, soon followed by the sequel BORN OF FIRE hitting the #1 spot on the NYT list (not to mention the Publisher's Weekly, Walmart, Borders and Barnes and Noble!) in November, and BORN OF ICE, the third in the series, going #1 in December.  This has focused a lot of attention on our amazing subgenre.

In fact, when BORN OF FIRE first hit the top spot in November, it was the first time since 1993 that a SFR/Futuristic went to #1 on a major list!

I'm now reading BORN OF NIGHT and hope to have a review up in the near future.

Here's a glimpse into Sherrilyn Kenyon's SFR/Futuristic series:

In the Ichidian Universe, The League and their ruthless assassins rule all. Expertly trained and highly valued, the League Assassins are the backbone of the government. But not even the League is immune to corruption . . .

Command Assassin Nykyrian Quikiades once turned his back on the League—and has been hunted by them ever since. Though many have tried, none can kill him or stop him from completing his current mission: to protect Kiara Zamir, a woman whose father’s political alliance has made her a target.

As her world becomes even deadlier, Kiara must entrust her life to the same kind of beast who once killed her mother and left her for dead. Old enemies and new threaten them both and the only way they can survive is to overcome their suspicions and learn to trust in the very ones who threaten them the most: each other.

Hip-Hip-Hooray for Sherrilyn Kenyon's LEAGUE series!  May this be the herald to the publishing industry that SFR truly is the next big thing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To sequel or not to sequel

In prepping my SFR Ghost Planet for submission, I ended up teasing a sequel at the end without actually intending to do it. So that got me thinking, do I want to write a sequel? How do I feel about sequels in general?

I have mixed feelings about them, to be honest. As a reader, I love the opportunity to revisit favorite characters. But when I read a big, fat, satisfying ending, and I know a sequel is coming, I can’t help thinking about how those poor characters are going to get dragged through hell AGAIN. And are the sequels ever as good as the original?

I think it *can* work. If the story is big enough, you can set up a series of happy endings that culminate in the characters coming together forever, so you don’t feel you’re covering the same ground over and over. But that can be tricky – in a romance, you expect to see those characters come together solidly (so to speak) by the end of Book 1.

You can follow different characters in the same world. If readers connected with your original MCs (which is probably why they're reading the sequel), how do they feel when they discover this book is not about them?

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts about this! Do you like sequels? Why or why not? Which SFR sequels have really worked for you?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ditto, Ditto and Ditto

The Science Fiction Romance That Harlequin Doesn't Want You to Know About

Book Covers that are Afraid to be Science Fiction

Susan Grant's New Cover Art

Yes, ditto, ditto and ditto.

I can't say it more clearly or more eloquently than the other SFR and SF blogs, but I can add my rant to the long and growing list.

Susan Grant is one of the foremost Science Fiction Romance authors in the industry today.  Is it really necessary to disguise her covers so they don't look like Science Fiction Romance?  What sort of genius marketing strategy is this?

Maybe someone needs to inform them that it's almost 2010 and yes, Virginia, women do read SFR, and in fact, more women are reading it all the time.  Its a subgenre on the rise and set to explode. 

What about this cover says SciFiRom?  I'm in agreement with Heather at the Galaxy Express that this looks more like an ad for soap or deoderant than a Science Fiction Romance.  Would any reader look at this image and think, "Wow, that looks like a great swashbuckling space pirate novel."   Or are they more likely to simply pass right by--or maybe look at the cover in puzzlement, then read the blurb and go, "Huh?" 

It's a known fact that authors generally have very little input into their cover art because they aren't the experts on what sells a novel.  Maybe it's time for that to change, if this is what the "experts" are coming up with. 

Let's take a look at a few SFR covers that actually look like the story might be SFR.  One glance and--surprise, surprise--the reader will even have a clue what the story is about.

THE HIDDEN WORLDS -- Note the gorgeous cover depicting an alien desert world and a man and woman in space-type garb, with the woman holding a futuristic weapon.  It suggests a male/female partnership and adventure in the future, wouldn't you say?

THE OUTBACK STARS -- Notice the dreamy feel of the art and the swirling stars and galaxies in the background.  Note the character in a spacesuit.  Note the suggestion of a spaceship.  Wow, I bet the story is set in the future aboard a ship and centers on the main character pictured, wouldn't you?

GRIMSPACE -- Angsty-looking female holding a weapon of the future with the suggestion of a wormhole-type phenomena behind her.  I'd guess this book is about a person who is going to travel through that wormhole look-alike to find adventure.  If I read the blurb, it would confrim that.

Maybe in the not-so-distant future it will become apparent that readers in general (and Science Fiction Romance readers in particular) are not stupid and don't appreciate the marketing mindset that depicting SFR as SFR is a bad thing.

They are also not happy when they pass right by great SFR novels with generic non-specific covers they would have noticed and bought if only the book looked like it might be Science Fiction Romance.

Let's stop the masquerade.  Let SFR covers be SFR.

Sharon Lynn Fisher Wins the 2009 On The Far Side Contest

Congratulations to Sharon!  She won the RWA Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal chapter's 2009 On The Far Side contest, paranormal category with her second novel, ECHO 8!

Fantastic news, Sharon.   I believe this is the second win for ECHO 8.  Sharon's first novel, GHOST PLANET, was a finalist in the 2009 RWA Golden Heart contest and won or placed in other contests, as well.  Her winning streak continues.

A few of the other categories wins and places are listed below.  Spacefreighters Lounge would like to applaud the On The Far Side contest for holding separate categories for Futuristic, Paranormal and Time Travel!


1 – Unspeakable Acts by Cheryl Alldredge

2 – Passages by Laurel Wanrow

3 – Apocalypse Daughter: Dystopia by Tracy St. Hilaire


1 - Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher

2 - Night Walker by Lisa Keesler

3 - Stealing Time by Elise Chand

Time Travel:

1 - Once in a Coyote Moon by Crista McHugh

2 - Machine Slave by Jennette Heikes

3 - The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone Seguin

Way to go, Sharon.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SFR Holiday Blitz Winners

We have winners!!!!

Tayluca has won our bonus book, THE OUTBACK STARS by Sandra McDonald. Congratulations! I know you're going to love this remarkable SFR.

s7anna has won LUCY IN THE SKY by Barbara Elsborg.  Congratulations, Anna.  This is a wonderful story with characters you won't soon forget.

Rhapsodyinbooks has won BEYOND THE RAIN by Jess Granger.  Congratulations to our final winner on winning this amazing tale of love and adventure.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the SFR Holiday Blitz. The Skiffy Rommers (science fiction romance community) appreciates your interest and support! :)

Friday, December 11, 2009


It's 12:00 AM EST and the SFR Holiday Blitz is official closed.

Thanks to everyone for the fantastic turn out. Winners of our three books will be announced tomorrow, so be sure to stop back to see if you're a winner.


Science fiction romance has deep roots in the world of Classic STAR TREK fan fiction. (And not just because Spock’s female fans wanted to see him get some action. A lot of us writing TREK fanfic were/are Kirk fans, thank you very much!) A big reason for this was that the classic series itself had a romantic streak a parsec wide that was a major part of its appeal.

So when people ask me to define SFR, I often refer back to a seminal episode of STAR TREK written by a giant of science fiction, Harlan Ellison, City on the Edge of Forever. For non-TREK fans, younglings and fans with Swiss-cheese memories, this is the episode in which Doctor McCoy, accidentally injected with a powerful hallucinogen, leaps through a time portal known as the Guardian of Forever into 1930's America and somehow changes history. Kirk and Spock must go after him and undo whatever it is that he does or the Enterprise and its crew are lost.

The essential conflict of the story emerges as Kirk meets and falls in love with a young woman who runs a soup kitchen ministering to the downtrodden of the city where all three Enterprise officers are drawn. As Spock soon discovers, Edith Keeler is the pivot point on which history turns. In the original timeline, Edith dies in a traffic accident. In the altered timeline, McCoy prevents her death, and she goes on to form a grassroots peace movement that prevents the U.S. entry into World War II long enough for Germany to develop rocket-launched nuclear weapons. In the new timeline, the Nazis win WWII.

Thus Kirk is faced with the ultimate hard choice: love or duty. And in this case, Ellison didn’t make it easy on the poor guy. We’re talking one life vs. millions of lives, your personal pain vs. a new Dark Age for your planet. Of course, Kirk being Kirk, there is no real choice. He prevents McCoy from saving Edith. She dies as she was meant to. And, as the Guardian says, “All is as it was.”

It’s interesting to note that Ellison himself had a different ending in mind for the episode. He had Kirk freeze at the crucial moment; Spock had to do the deed. Who knew the guy known throughout the SF world as an A1 smartass was such a romantic? One story goes that William Shatner insisted that Kirk would never have failed his duty, that to have him choke would have been a major break in character, and I tend to agree. Of course, I have all these years (and episodes and movies) to look back on as evidence of that. Shatner, presumably, only had his gut instinct of what Kirk would do.

This story is science fiction romance at its best in a lot of ways. You truly cannot separate the science fiction from the romance, even though ninety percent of the story is set on 1930’s Earth. Take away either half, and the story falls apart. The characters, the plot, the essential conflict, all depend on both the SF and the R.

Where we run into trouble, however, is in the ending. Ellison, after all, is a science fiction writer, not a romance writer. (Hell, he’d probably have my head for even presuming to write this blog at all!) Add to that the requirements of STAR TREK itself—no real change in the characters from week to week (though Roddenberry and his actors violated that one practically every week), no commitments/attachments for your characters and so on. So, no matter what, EDITH KEELER MUST DIE!

I actually wrote a fanfic story in which Kirk sat Edith down and explained the situation to her (to hell with the Prime Directive—seemed like this was a case where it could be waived). She was reasonable and gave up the whole peace movement thing. Problem solved and no one dies. Unfortunately, Kirk still had to leave, cuz, you know, he’s got a ship to run.

Problem is, these solutions violate the Number One Rule of Romance—must have a happy ending (known in the biz as happily ever after, or HEA). You know what, there is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with HEA. It’s just that some stories don’t lend themselves to it. If that’s the case, then it’s not, technically, a romance, even though it may qualify on all other points.

Sadly, this is the case with City on the Edge of Forever. You couldn’t sell this excellent story to a romance agent or publisher without somehow changing the ending. (Kirk retires to 1930 after a long career? It’s a better ending than GENERATIONS gave him, that’s for sure!) I doubt you would find a science fiction publisher who would take it, either (too much “girly” romance!).

Harlan Ellison wrote City on the Edge of Forever more than 40 years ago, at a time when television writing, science fiction and indeed, just about everything in the creative world was undergoing incredible ferment and change. The only rule in those days was that there were no rules, and Ellison was at the forefront of those changes in science fiction. But since then it seems that literature, like radio and cable TV, has fractured into tiny fiefdoms of limited taste and little crossover interest.

Science fiction romance, a hybrid subgenre that beautifully melds the best of all worlds, is too expansive to be confined to one narrowly defined category. It can’t be precariously balanced on the iron-tipped fence separating two armed camps.

Storm the castles, I say! Break down the defenses! Crash the party! Read the other gals’ (and guys’) stuff! Then color outside the lines! Eventually somebody will take notice. And, if not, at least we will have had some fun.

Cheers, Donna

Four Visions, Four Voices: Sharon Lynn Fisher

Last, but certainly not least, we have Sharon Lynn Fisher to wrap up our Four Visions, Four Voices series. Sharon's novel, Ghost Planet, received one of the highest of all honors in 2009 when it was named as a finalist in the RWA Golden Heart competition. (Sharon is probably one of only a very small handful of SFR writers to ever achieve this pinnacle).

How would you classify your SFR? (Space opera, romantic SF, apocalyptic, military SFR, or other.)

I think GHOST PLANET is an “other.” It’s psychological, and character-driven. Rooted in big questions, like what it means to be human, and the boundaries between love and dependence. But don’t get the wrong idea - it does have aliens, action, twists and turns, and sex!

GP also explores the idea of symbiosis in relationships – human relationships, but also the relationship between humans and their environment.

What makes your story "different' or what unique elements would entertain readers?

It’s hard for me to be objective about this, but others have commented GP is sci-fi romance even those who don’t like sci-fi would enjoy. It *is* set on another world. With aliens. But the main characters are psychologists, and people you might meet anywhere.

I think the element that interests readers is watching the main character respond to the discovery she’s not the person (or species) she thought she was. The only person she knows on this new world believes she’s his enemy – and she can’t walk more than thirty or so yards away from him.

Do you have a favorite line from your novel that you can share?

In searching for this I discovered it’s tricky pulling lines out of context and having them sound as nice! Here are a few that I like on their own ...

“I glanced around, irrational and frantic, looking for what, I don’t know - some way out of my situation, a tunnel back to a more comfortable reality.”

“You people really are a malignancy.”

“I was running on pure adrenaline - me, two guns, and two sprigs of some deadly poisonous herb, many guards had Peter said? Thirty?”

Anything else you'd like to share about your work?

I’m wrapping up a rewrite of GHOST PLANET in preparation for submission, and after that I have another project I’m eager to continue. ECHO 8, a near-future romance with both sci-fi and paranormal elements, is a 2009 finalist in RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter contest, On the Far Side.

Could you give us a sneak peek at Ghost Planet?

At this point in the story, Elizabeth is just beginning to come out of denial about her new identity...

I followed Murphy in a daze. To anyone in the street I must have looked just like all the other ghosts, striding along behind him, eyes fixed on his back.

I was so tired. All I wanted to do was sleep. Sleep and forget. Sleep and wake up from this nightmare, my limbs tingling and my neck aching from curling up against the hard, narrow transport seat.

The transport would land at the terminal. I would get off. Meet my new supervisor. And I would refuse to leave the terminal until the next transport to Earth.

Or maybe I would shake off the effects of the nightmare quickly. Maybe I’d wake up energized and ready to start my new life.

So many possibilities, once I was no longer dead.

Thanks so much, Sharon, for sharing your thoughts about Ghost Planet, and giving us a taste of your vision and voice in creating this fascinating world.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Four Visions, Four Voices: Laurie Green

Laurie Green is an award-winning SFR writer, currently unpublished.

How would you classify your SFR? (Space opera, romantic SF, apocalyptic, military SFR, or other.)

It's space opera with decidedly military overtones. It has space battles, cool technology and state-of-the-art ships. One of the MCs and three of the major characters hold military rank. It's certainly not romantic SF, because the romance and the SF elements drive the story with equal thrusters, and it’s not apocalyptic though it is a bit dystopian. I've had several beta readers say that the premise initially reminded them a bit of Joss Whedon’s Firefly series, but the similarities are superficial.  By the way, the working title--P2PC--is futuristic slang for planet-to-planet courier.  The female MC is a special cargo transporter.  I get a lot of questions about the title.  :)

What makes your story "different" or what unique elements would entertain readers?

Many things. I use basic SF ideas like holodecks and transporters and give them a whole new twist and purpose in this tale. Although it takes place 1,500 years in the future, I drew on elements from 2,000 year old civilizations, especially Rome, to define the cultures. The Romans considered themselves champions of culture and enlightenment with an emphasis on philosophy, the arts, literature, poetry, and personal freedoms--and then enjoyed gory spectacles of torture and carnage for entertainment. I have a dominant society in P2PC that also considers itself enlightened, but sustains a horrendous industry of which the MC is a victim. I keep most of the gruesomeness off-stage though its impact on the MC's life is profound.

The story is told entirely from the male MCs (Sair's) POV which I've been reminded (frequently) is a no-no for a romance. But I had a reason for writing the story from this perspective. There are surprises about the female MC (Drea) that would affect the dynamics if the reader was privvy to her thoughts. She's also runs very hot-and-cold until the reader finally peeks "behind her veil." Drea later trusts Sair enough to give back everything she's withheld from him emotionally.

Do you have a favorite line from your novel that you can share?

I have two, and both are connected to major plot points in the story.

"My father didn't build the Specter to be a cargo ship, Sair."

"History is seldom made in the quiet or the dark."

Anything else you'd like to share about your work?

Being the author of a unique subgenre of romance is not always an easy flight path, but I write the sort of stories I want to read. They're adventurous, thought-provoking, and they push the envelope a bit in terms of possibility. I hope at some point in the not-too-distant future, a lot of readers out there will discover my novel and say, "This is exactly the type of story I've been looking for!"

Could you give us a sneak peek of the story?

Love to!  This passage takes place after Sair has been attacked by the aggressive female first mate, Zjel.

“There was no call for Zjel’s actions in the galley. I apologize on her behalf,” Drea said.

“She doesn’t even know me and she wants me dead.”

“Zjel’s no cold-blooded killer.”

“Not yet!” Sair snapped. “I was lucky this time. Every moment I’m on your ship, I have to worry about that knife-wielding she-marka getting to me. I’m better off risking the slavers. Lesser of two evils. I'll get off when we reach Helim.”

The captain took a couple of steps away from him, then turned back. “Zjel suffered something terrible at the hands of the Rathskians, Sair. She can’t separate you from your race. That’s why the animosity. I’ve spoken to her about her conduct.”

“What will that change? She hates Rathskians. I lived for seventeen calendars under the threat of a butcher’s knife. I don’t want to risk getting carved up now.”

“You won’t be.”

"I want my weapons back."

"You don't know how to use them, Sair. You'll only provoke her."

"At least I'd have a chance."

"All you'd have is false security. I don't want your blood and body parts splattered down the corridors of my ship."

Hades forbid I litter your spotless vessel with bits of my male anatomy. Sair clenched his teeth, glaring.

Drea spoke again, her voice soft. "I meant that with a great deal of affection, Sair. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you." She stepped forward and brushed his cheek with her hand.


“Sair.” His name came as a whisper as she slid her hand into his. “Don’t get off on Helim. It’s not safe.”

Now truly disarmed, he looked into Drea’s eyes and swayed closer to her lips.

The captain stiffened, her hands locked on his arms and thrust him back. “Zjel, proximity alert! Man the defense console.”

The first mate’s voice sounded from the com-speak. “Aye, Captain. What do we have?”

“Ithian Hammerhead destroyer off our port stern. I’m taking us red.”

Thanks for sharing your vision and your voice, and best wishes for future succes with your novel.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Four Visions, Four Voices: Donna S. Frelick

Donna S. Frelick is known for her Star Trek fanfic and long time interest in anything sci-fi.  Although currently unpublished in science fiction romance, she is the author of the exciting Interstellar Rescue series.

How would you classify your SFR? (Space opera, romantic SF, apocalyptic, military SFR, or other.)

Classic, humanist New Age SF paired with steamy adult romance and a dash of suspense. In my dreams, I’m Harlan Ellison’s DANGEROUS VISIONS anthology meets Christine Feehan’s Drake sisters. Or J.J. Abrams meets Linda Howard. My manuscript UNCHAINED MEMORY is largely set on Earth, with interference from beyond our solar system. The second and third books in the INTERSTELLAR RESCUE series will gradually take the reader further out into the galaxy.

What makes your story "different" or what unique elements would entertain readers?

What? The answer to the first question wasn’t “different” enough? Well, all right, let me twist the question slightly to explain instead what makes my story SPECIAL, and I’d have to say my characters. The characters in UNCHAINED MEMORY don’t have superpowers (or green skin or pointy ears). Like Stephen King’s small-town sheriffs and struggling writers, they are just ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. They are wounded people who find healing in each other. But if you don’t end up loving Ethan and Asia as much as I do, then I haven’t done my job as a writer.

Do you have a favorite line from your novel that you can share?

“Ethan stopped and shook his head. ‘I can’t justify doping you up with powerful drugs to rid you of your delusions. And yet I can’t explain what you’ve told me.’ He paused again, at a loss for words. At last he gave me the faintest of smiles. ‘I guess that means we’re both crazy.’
I’m not sure, but I think that’s the moment I began to fall in love with Ethan Roberts.”

Anything else you'd like to tell us about your work?

UNCHAINED MEMORY is the first book in my planned INTERSTELLAR RESCUE series about the men and women, lovers and friends, human and otherwise, engaged in a galaxy-wide battle against the slave-trading aliens known here on Earth as the Grays. As the series progresses, the stories take place further and further from “home” and take on more of a “space opera” feel. It’s my hope that I’ll snare a shipload of newbie SFR fans with the more familiar feel of UM who’ll be willing to ride along with me as we hit impulse power with TROUBLE IN MIND (half Earth-based kidnapping thriller/half galactic power grab) and warp drive with RUNAWAY(pure pirate-romance-in-space fun).

Could you give us a sneak peak of the story?

A hand touched her face, brushed the hair from her forehead. Rough fingers, trembling, warm. A voice. A man. Very close.

“Hey. You’ve had a tough time, little girl, but you’re almost home. We’ll have you back to your family soon, and you won’t even know you’ve been gone.”

“Two minutes to jump, Captain.”

“Thanks, Lieutenant, I’ll be right there.”

“You know she can’t hear you, Sam. And I’ve never seen you take this kind of interest in the cargo before. What’s the story?”

“First of all, they aren’t cargo. You of all people should know that, Doc. Besides, this one is special. Rayna gave up a lot to get this one out. I’m gonna make sure she gets back home if I have to set her down in her living room myself.”

Another touch. “Just a few minutes more, Sphinx. I’ll get you there, I promise.”

“Captain Murphy?”

“Coming. Time?”

“Jay minus thirty.”

The voices grew fainter and finally disappeared altogether. There was nothing but the hum for an unknown time. She drifted again, until she was suddenly aware of movement, lots of it, jostling and shaking and turning her body against the pull of gravity until she wasn’t certain just where that pull was coming from. She floated, weightless. Then she slammed heavily against the restraints that held her. There was no pain—there should be pain, she thought disjointedly—just that odd sensation of being jerked around by an unseen force.

She heard the shriek of alarms. A call, brassy and loud, booming from every direction: “Battlestations! This is not a drill! All hands to battlestations!”

Then voices, shouting, shrill. “What the hell is going on?”

“Gray corsair was waiting for us when we came out of the jump.” More jostling, throwing her abruptly against the restraints. “Shit! We’re taking a beating.”

“Get this sickbay ready for casualties, stat! What are you standing around for—you act like this is your first time in a fight, Korda!”

Closer, almost in her ear. “Sorry, hon. You’ll have to wait a little longer to get home.”

Thanks, Donna, for your insights and a glimpse into your Interstellar Rescue universe.  We'll be waiting for word of its sale!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Four Visions, Four Voices

Science Fiction Romance may be a niche subgenre, but there's a universe of possibility with plots, characters and situations.  During the week long SFR Holiday Blitz celebration, Spacefreighters Lounge will feature Four Visions, Four Voices--brief chats with writers and authors about what makes their SFR projects ( and two soon-to-debut novels) unique.

(In aphabetical order)

Sharon Lynn Fisher (will be posted on Friday)
On: Ghost Planet
2009 Golden Heart finalist SFR (paranormal category)

Donna S. Frelick (Wednesday)
On: Unchained Memory
Published author of Star Trek fanfic; Unpublished in SFR

Laurie Green (Thursday)
On: P2PC
Unpublished; Award winning SFR writer

D. L. Jackson (Tuesday)
On: Last Flight of the Ark
Soon to debut SLIPPING THE PAST and LAST FLIGHT OF THE ARK with Liquid Silver Books; Published author of erotica short stories

We hope you enjoy the series.

Four Visions, Four Voices: D. L. Jackson

We're kicking off our series of brief interviews this morning exploring Four Visions, Four Voices with D. L. Jackson, a soon-to-debut new author of SFR.  Science Fiction Romance presents a universe of ideas, possibilities, characters, settings and situations.  Here's a glimpse into the realms created by four SFR writers.

D. L. Jackson is the author of the soon-to-debut Futuristic Romance SLIPPING THE PAST and soon after that LAST FLIGHT OF THE ARK, a SFR, will be released, both to be published by Liquid Silver Books.  She is also a published author of erotica short stories.

How would you classify your SFR? (Space opera, romantic SF, apocalyptic, military SFR, or other.)

That's a hard one. Last Flight of the Ark. SFR--SFE--but only because I wouldn't call it Space Opera--too dark. It could fall into apocalyptic, because of the situation the main characters finds themselves in, but it doesn't go that far in the novel. Could be military--as I draw on my experience in the military and it has some elements of that. I'd call it a mutt.

What makes your story "different' or what unique elements would entertain readers?

Believe it or not, this started as a werewolf novella for a call with another publisher. I never go the traditional route with my stories and the Ark wasn't any different. It deals with a mutation more than the traditional shape-shifter stories and I think you might be surprised at how it plays into the novel. I think the choice Kaleb Titan must make is what makes this different. He has to use biological warfare against his own people to save them. It changes them and condemns them to exile on another world. The enemy is another element that make the story unique and telling you what it is, would be a spoiler. (So I won't share there. LOL :) Also this is erotic science fiction. It's a menage story, the first I've written.

Do you have a favorite line(s) from your novel that you can share?

“What if it isn’t reversible?”

“Then we evolve. We won’t be the first or last species to do it.”

“How can you take that chance, based on a pocket full of assumptions?” She slapped her palms down on the table and leaned in until their noses almost touched. “That’s what you’ve got. Nothing more.”

Anything else you'd like to share about your work?

I have a futuristic romance coming out soon, SLIPPING THE PAST. It mixes science fiction, fantasy, historical elements and has been described as having a "Blade Runner-Matrix-Minority Report" feel by the editor that worked on it. My goal when I wrote both my novels was to give the readers a story unlike anything they've read before and I think SLIPPING THE PAST and LAST FLIGHT OF THE ARK will do that. There are some surprises in both--that's a promise.

Could you give us a sneak peak of the story?


“Will she let me in the cage?”

Jessica shrugged. “She’s not growling. I’d take that catch-pole over there with the loop in the end, in case she changes her mind.”

Kaleb nodded and snagged the pole. One way or another someone had to go in there. If Sheba liked him, it might as well be him. “Open the door when I say and get the trank-gun in case she gets ugly. First sign of aggression put her out.”

Jessica loaded a cartridge into the gun. “Ready?”

Kaleb nodded and Jessica opened the door. He stepped inside and it clanged shut behind him. “Hey, girl.”

With a growl that sounded more like a roar, Sheba launched from the corner. Her paws landed in his chest, knocking him to the floor. Kaleb only had seconds to register her open jaws and large teeth. He threw his forearm over his throat. Sheba latched on, sinking into flesh. A crunch and then sharp pain shot up his arm. Oh, God. Her teeth pierced bone.

“Shoot her!”

The trank popped and was followed by a yelp from Sheba, who released his arm and staggered back. Blood dripped from her muzzle and stained her white fur. She swayed from side to side and dropped to the floor with a snort. Her front paw dug at air as she fought the drug.

“Omigod.” Jessica threw the door open and rushed to his side. “You okay?”

Kaleb glanced at his blood-soaked sleeve. “She likes me, huh?” He cringed as pain radiated from his fingers to his shoulder. Last time he’d trust a smiling female. They were all trouble.

Jessica helped him to sit up and ripped his sleeve open, staring at the bite. Blood pumped from the wound and formed a puddle on the floor. “Can you walk to the med-bay?”

“Does it look like she bit my leg?” Kaleb snarled.

Thanks, D. L., for agreeing to do this interview and for providing a glimpse into your upcoming release.  I'll be looking forward to the release announcement from Liquid Silver Books.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How to be a More Active SFR Fan

Love Science Fiction Romance?  Want to do more as a fan, reader or writer to promote the subgenre and get the word out?  History in the publishing industry has shown that fan-based communities can make a difference in genre (and subgenre) popularity and marketability. 

Here are seven easy ways to help give the SFR community a larger voice.

1.  Join the discussions on a Science Fiction Romance Community.
Amazon Science Fiction Romance Community
The more active the SFR Community, the more people will hear about our favorite reads.  There are a lot of readers (and even industry professionals) out there who still aren't aware that, yes, Virginia, Science Fiction Romance does exist!

2. Tag your favorite SFR novels as SFR.
Find your favorite novels on Amazon, etc.  Scroll down to the "tags" section and click the box for science fiction romance and any other appropriate descriptions.  In fact, you can use all three of most used tags:  SFR, Science Fiction Romance, and Sci-Fi Romance.  Be sure to also check "paranormal romance" which is the umbrella category for SFR and a very active community on Amazon. You can even create your own tags.  How does this help?  It moves the novel up to a more prominent position in site searches.  Read more here.

3.  Write reviews on your favorite SFRs and rate them accordingly.  If you find a fantastic story among the stars, be sure to tell the world about it!

4.  Found a SFR you really love?  Tell ten people about why you thought it was such a stellar story.  Word of mouth is still one of the most effective book promotion methods out there.

5.  Join the Skiffy Rommer set at "SFR Central" (The Galaxy Express blog) for SFR-related news, links, discussion and all the latest buzz from peers and fellow enthusiasts.

6.  Post the SFR link list established during the current SFR Holiday Blitz on your blog to promote other web sites in the Skiffy Rommer universe so your readers can make the jump to lightspeed to catch the latest buzz.

7.  Comment on SFR-oriented blogs and posts.  Show the world (not to mention agents, editors and publishing houses) that the Skiffy Rommers are a dedicated and enthusiastic market.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Details on our Featured Books

These are the fabulous books Spacefreighters Lounge is offering as part of the SFR Holiday Blitz!

Our Featured E-Book:
LUCY IN THE SKY by Barbara Elsborg
Ellora's Cave
Released in October 2009
"When you find a spaceship in your backyard, what do you do? Choose from three:
Phone the police.
Go yell at the alien for wrecking your garden."
This novel has it all--a steamy hero, a funny heroine and an amazing, sexy romp among the stars. LUCY IN THE SKY is a Science Fiction Romance Erotica e-book and is available to adults over 18 only. Want more details?

Our Featured Print Book:
BEYOND THE RAIN by Jess Granger
Berkley Trade
Released in August 2009
"In a universe torn apart by civil war, a warrior and a slave must fight for their lives and a love that may destroy them both."  Jess Granger's amazing characters and cultures--not too mention the oh so adorable Vicca--make this SFR a standout.   Learn more. (Print books are only available to US citizens due to prohibitive shipping costs.)

Our Special Bonus:
THE OUTBACK STARS by Sandra McDonald
Tor Science Fiction
Released February 2008
THE OUTBACK STARS is one of Spacefreighters Lounge's top picks for Science Fiction Romance. We'll award this wonderful SFR adventure/suspense if our SFR Holiday Blitz announcement receives more than 50 comments OR if this blog reaches 15,000 hits during the SFR Holiday Blitz.
"Love. Duty. Really big spaceships."  Set in a future where Australian has taken the lead in space exploration, this military SFR features characters and a love story you will never forget and a lot of twists and surprises along the way.  Check it out here.
(Print books are only available to US citizens due to prohibitive shipping costs.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coming Soon: A Special Holiday SFR Event

Big news!  There's a major event coming and you're invited to join in the fun and freebies!

Beginning the morning of December 6th, a dozen science fiction romance blogs will join forces with seventeen authors to kick off the SFR Holiday Blitz where 30 SFR books! will be given away to random blog visitors.  The contest will end at midnight on Friday, December 11, 2009 when the winners will be chosen.

There will be plenty of promotion ahead of the event, including a Crazy Tuesday podcast done by contributing author Rowena Cherry with Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express, the person responsible for all the hard work, organizing and managing of the event [a big hats off to Heather!], and several other Skiffy Rommers.  You can read more about the SFR Holiday Blitz on "The Biggest Bang: SFR" an Amazon list Rowena Cherry created for the event showing most of the books being offered.

Spacefreighters Lounge will be participating and we'll be posting our announcement and the free e-book on December 6th. 

We may even have an added bonus, courtesy of this blog. 

So mark your calendar now and stop back the morning of December 6th for the start of our SFR holiday event extraordinaire!  We'll have links to all the participating blogs so you can make the hyperjump with just the touch of a key.

Stand by for lift off!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Uranus Strikes Out

The Challenges of Writing a Near Future SFR

I had a funny thought today that in the process of revising my latest manuscript, Outer Planets, I effectively obliterated a member of our solar system from the mission parameters. Zap! Space dust. (Doesn’t being a writer come with some nifty powers?)

In my original draft of this Near Future Romance, my space exploration vessel was plotted to scout the moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus for potential colony sites and resources that could be mined, extracted or otherwise pilfered by a burgeoning colony or two, or absorbed by consumers back on Earth. So why pick on poor Uranus? What did the seventh rock from the Sun ever do to me?

To put it simply, common logic killed Uranus.

First of all, it created a timing problem. My mission takes place from approximately the year 2039 to 2044. As it turns out, Jupiter and Saturn are going to be in close proximity in orbit in approximately November 2041, instead of being at opposite sides of the sun. The timing is perfect. Actually, they’ll be close again sometime in the 2070s but that’s too far in the future for the story I want to create, which I intentionally set within the life span of most readers. There’s a reference in the story to His Majesty, the King of England. Guess who that is? I thought it was kind of a cool thing that when the reference is made to a monarch some 30 years in the future, the reader will know who will most likely be occupying that seat.

But back to Uranus.

First of all, placement in orbit. I simply couldn’t make the inclusion of Uranus work in any feasible way, since although it wasn’t at the opposite side of the sun at that point, it was too far away to work into my mission without adding tens of million of miles. That was strike one.

Secondly, my purpose for including Uranus in the story was to open up the possibility of its additional 27 moons (as of this date) to explore. But with just Jupiter and Saturn there are already 123 moons. (Amazing, isn’t it? There are 150 moons orbiting those three planets!) Upon re-evaluation, 123 moons is plenty to explore especially with the possible water moons of Europa and Encaledus, the methane oceans of the Earth-lookalike Titan, and the volcanic activities on Io, et al. In fact, exploring 150 moons was probably overkill. So that was strike two.

Last of all, distance. Even if I’d cheated a bit and made Uranus’s orbit position feasible (i.e. fictional) for the timeline, it’s still way out there. Literally wayyy out there. Though Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus are neighbors, the distances between them are enormous. Earth is a mere 92,957,000 miles from the sun—to make the measurement of great distances easier to understand, that’s called an AU (or Astronomical Unit). In comparison, Mars’ orbit is only about one half of one AU away from Earth. Venus is even closer, but in the opposite direction. Jupiter is 483,632,000 miles away or four AUs. Saturn is 888,188,000 miles or nine-count ‘em—nine! AUs. And Uranus? A whopping 18 AUs or 1,690,950,000 from Earth, about twice as far out as Saturn.

Just for fun, I laid all the planets beyond Earth out on a graph line and translated it into rounded AU numbers. It looked something like this:

0.5 Mars

1.8 Asteroid belt

4.0 Jupiter

9.0 Saturn

18.0 Uranus

29.0 Neptune

38.0 Pluto

So even if Uranus was in perfect alignment, like Jupiter and Saturn will be, it would require all the time it took to reach Saturn (another two years) to get there, making my mission at least an eight-year mission, not five years. For reasons of both believable logistics and most of all, plot dynamics, that simply doesn’t work.

At our present level of propulsion technology we’d be hard pressed to even reach Jupiter in the first year, but I think it’s reasonable to assume some advances in both speed and efficiency in the next thirty years. So, one year to reach Jupiter. Six months to research the Jovian system. Another two and a half years to reach and study Saturn. And a final year to return home. (I developed new technology to increase the ship’s velocity for the return to Earth. Voila! Five year mission.)

So that settled it. Strike three. The mighty Uranus has struck out. Besides, the blue gas giant and her twenty-seven moons was just way too much additional detail to pack into an 110,000 page novel.

Writing a Near Future SF Romance is presenting a whole new set of challenges for me than I’ve encountered in my other SFRs. In P2PC and Draxis, I could simply create the worlds I wanted with all their little quirks, customs and idiosyncrasies to compliment the plot or add conflict for the characters. But dealing with characters living in a world only two or three decades down the road, the story takes on the feel of a contemporary (albeit an extraordinary one). There’s a lot more research involved. In P2PC, the distance between Veros and Banna (or Rathskia and Ithis) didn’t matter. Because those planets are…you know…fictional. Whereas Jupiter and Saturn are fact. And they can be seen by anyone on any given night with any decent telescope. Hello!

This project has been an incredible journey for me via my research. Whether reliving the giddy years of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, studying how a space shuttle actually orbits, marveling at the amazing paintings of former astronaut Alan Bean, touring the Skylab at the Smithsonia Air and Space Museum, or puzzling out the political dramas surrounding the Mir space station, Outer Planets has taken me places I’ve never been before. I hope it will do the same for readers someday in the not too distant future.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Welcome Home, Atlantis!

Some amazing footage of the Atlantis shuttle landing today. Thanks to the Space Fellowship on Twitter for posting the link.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Nalini Singh’s phenomenal Psy-Changling SFR series. I love her sensual, shape-shifting Changlings, her cool, emotionally-repressed Psy and the alternate, politically cutthroat Earth that brings them together in all sorts of creative and intricate ways.

That said, BLAZE OF MEMORY, the latest in the series, is not an easy book to love. Singh has set the bar high for herself in this seventh novel. Because she’s a writer of talent and imagination, Singh rises to the challenge for the most part, but the result is not the seemingly effortless triumph of earlier titles in the series.

A large part of the series’ appeal has always been the “attraction of opposites”. Fireworks can be expected when icy Psy empath (female) meets hot Changling alpha (male), cold Psy assassin (male) meets irresistible Changling abductee (female), or even hot Changling wolf meets hotter Changling leopard.

The emotional chemistry is not as predictable when you pair a Psy who has already been stripped of the strict mental conditioning that controls her emotions and a member of “the Forgotten”, a man with same genetic coding for psychic talent as the Psy, but none of the emotional repression of enforced “Silence.” Conveying emotional intensity between these two characters is much more difficult because it’s harder to make the reader understand what is at stake for them. What is it they’re risking for each other? And why?

Throw in the plot device that our heroine, Katya, has been programmed to kill our hero, Dev, and it would seem unlikely that they would get together at all. I’m usually willing to go along with these things—this is romance, after all—but I did feel this was a stretch. The heat quotient just never reached the point between them that I felt Dev couldn’t have found a way to leave Katya in someone else’s care for a minute, especially given that Dev is director of an organization protecting the Forgotten and KNOWS this is a trap. Again, there’s that question: why?

Love should always be the answer, but I just wasn’t feeling it in this volume of Singh’s generally excellent series. Of course, the lovers find their way to a satisfying ending, though the political plot threads that wind their way through the book must await the next novel for resolution. When that volume comes out, I’ll be right there in the bookstore with my money in hand, undeterred. Nalini Singh is just that good.

ERRATA: I said in my earlier post on Nalini Singh that the Psy-Changling series had eight volumes. It is SEVEN, including BLAZE OF MEMORY. Sorry, I'm math challenged.

P.S. Interesting to note that one of the leading ladies of paranormal romance, Sherrilyn Kenyon, has recently begun an SFR series with her novels BORN OF NIGHT and BORN OF FIRE. Sherrilyn says in the Author’s Note to BORN OF NIGHT that it was written in 1986-87, sold in 1992, and first published in 1996. My copy of FANTASY LOVER, the first in her DARK HUNTER series, lists a publishing date of 2002. So I guess that means she was a Skiffy Rommer BEFORE she was a paranormal phenom! So, welcome aboard again, Sherrilyn, and let’s hope you bring a lot of folks along with you for the ride!

Cheers, Donna

Monday, November 16, 2009


Imagine a world, very much like our own Earth, with recognizable places and technologies. But populate this Earth with three very different races of beings. One race is human, much as we have always known humans to be. Messy, emotional, not particularly strong or fast. With a modicum of intelligence and artistic flair. Equally capable of greatness and mediocrity.

Another race, the Psy, shares a basically human genetic code predisposed to psychic talents—telekinesis, psychometry, telepathy, medical diagnosis, empathy, even foresight and teleportation. The heavy downside of these psychic talents in the past (madness and violence) has led to the institution of a strict universal training system from birth to eliminate all emotion in the Psy. Their only real connection to each other is through the PsyNet, a kind of WiFi of the mind. Without that connection, individual Psy wither and die.

The members of the third race on this alternate Earth are the Changlings, whose genetic code contains generous doses of animal DNA. They may be wolves, leopards, even rats or hawks by nature and can transform from “human” to animal form when they so desire. Though they are fully sentient, their behavior is influenced by their animal nature. Thus, the wolves and cats are strongly attached to pack or pride and follow hierarchical patterns within their communities.

All right, now you have the world. It’s based not on fantasy but on genetics, anthropology, sociology and political science. If I were to give you even more details about what went on in the Psy world or the Changling world or between the three races, you’d see that even more clearly. So what we have here is obviously the basis for a great science fiction story, right?

Those of you who are fans of NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Nalini Singh are already way ahead of me on this. Wait! you say. Not only do we have the basis for a great science fiction story. We have the basis for a terrific, best-selling SF Romance SERIES (EIGHT novels and counting).

So how come no one calls Nalini Singh a Skiffy Rommer? Why is her name not mentioned along with Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant and Ann Aguirre and the others when we talk about great SFR writers?

Several things could be at work here, and not being much of a conspiracy theorist, I tend to favor the Occam’s Razor approach. Maybe a lot of my fellow Skiffy Rommers have not had the pleasure of reading one of Nalini’s excellent Psy-Changling novels. That’s an easy fix. Run right out and get the first in the series, SLAVE TO SENSATION, the story of a Psy empath and an alpha panther Changling working to stem a bloodbath brought on by a serial murderer in a world that is supposed to have eliminated violence. The book is breathtaking on many levels—in its creation of this alternate world, in its style, pacing and intricate plot and, so satisfyingly, in the depth of its relationship between the lovers at its center.

Primarily, though, I suspect Nalini is missing from the rolls of science fiction romance because she has been marketed as a PARANORMAL romance writer. That’s what the back of her books call her, after all. Her covers, particularly in the beginning, stressed the shapeshifter aspects of the Changlings (hey, I’ve got nothing against hot werewolves, either), and the titles could have referred to almost anything. I’m sure at no point did her agent sit up and say, “Hey, Nalini, you know this is really science fiction. Let’s make sure all the SF fans out there know that and call this a science fiction romance!”

Somehow, I imagine the conversation was very different.

Nalini: “Well, you know, this is science fiction. Just with a lot of hot romance.”

Agent: “Only 14-year-old boys read science fiction.”

Nalini: “That’s not true. I love Anne McCaffrey.”

Agent: “Okay. But no one in ROMANCE reads science fiction.”

Nalini: “Well, couldn’t we take out the romance and sell it as science fiction?”

Agent: (choking) “I’m trying to make a living here. Doesn’t this thing have—whaddayacallem—werewolves?”

Nalini: “Changlings.”

Agent: “Yeah. BAM! You’re a paranormal romance writer. And don’t you forget it.”

Of course, one thing that I’m sure Nalini Singh would never have suggested was taking the romance out of any of her books. She may be a fan of Anne McCaffrey (she lists McCaffrey’s PERN series among her favorite books on her website), but she considers herself to be first and always a ROMANCE writer. She started her career in series romance for Harlequin (Silhouette), and is committed to giving her lovers the same kind of happy endings that once were required by strict guidelines.

Nalini gives her heroes and heroines and their relationships the central focus in her books as well, the hallmark of the skiffy rommer, as opposed to the SF writer adding a few romantic elements to the mix. And just in case you weren’t paying attention earlier, those romances heat up the page. No 14-year-old boys allowed, please. (Though if they EVER got a hint of what went on in most of these romance novels, the boys would never go back to STAR WARS. My husband is a huge Nalini Singh fan.)

So I hereby lay claim to Nalini Singh on behalf of all of her fellow Skiffy Rommers (whether she claims US or not), and urge all SFR fans who have not had the pleasure to seek out her Psy-Changling series. (Stay tuned to this space for a review of Nalini’s latest book in the series, BLAZE OF MEMORY. Coming soon!)
Cheers, Donna

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sometimes You Feel Like a Paranormal...

Sometimes You Don't
Contest Challenges for the Skiffy Rommer Set

Contests are subjective.  No surprise there.  But when you pen Science Fiction Romance, sometimes it really comes down to the luck of the draw.  Let me 'splain.

As a recent contest campaigner, I've learned that most contests use broad spectrum categories to net large numbers of entries.  This can cause we rebel space cadets to make some hard choices.

In a recent non-RWA contest, my choice was to enter my work as either a Romance or in a category for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror.  Hmmm.  Quandry!  Do I enter it in Romance based on the crucial relationship between the MCs and risk being zapped by a judge who prefers contemporary or regency and hasn't a clue what to make of a love story set 1500 years in the future?  Ooooor, do I enter it in Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror where it's pitted against straight genre fare without romantic elements?  Hmmmmmm.  Hmmmmmm.  Okay....eenie, meanie, miney, moe...

I picked the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category based on the page requirement of the submission and the fact that my romance really doesn't engage all thrusters until the end of Chapter 3.  That gamble paid off.  I finalled...and then won the category.  Which made me do a very enthusiastic happy dance to have my little SFR placed over straight genre fare.  One point for the Skiffy Rommers!!!

My next challenge was an RWA-sponsored contest, where the decision was more cut and dried, but my SFR was still at a disadvantage. Because the romance is a given, the only decision was which category to enter, and that course was pretty much charted, too.  It's not contemporary, historical, suspense, so in the world of romance everything that's "offbeat" falls into a catch-all category called "Paranormal Romance."  In other words, my SFR was thrown into the mix with vampires, ghosts, elves, shapeshifters, demons, reapers, and the like which are often more accepted members of the paranormal realm than science fiction romance.  The Skiffy Rommer was the odd man--er, manuscript--out, once again. 

But hold the shuttle! you say, SFR isn't Paranormal!  Surprise!  (At least this discovery came as a shock to me.)  By most RWA standards, yes it is.  Because, again, there are lump sum categories to encourage lots of entries.  So now my space opera is facing Djinns and Vampires and Elves, oh my!  My SFR didn't do as well in the next contest, and I'll even share a couple of the anonymous judges' comments with you:

"Your elements of future fantasy were well done, very close to SF." 
"Although I love the writing and you’ve scored well, I have to ask—what is your main goal with this book? Is it science fiction or is it romance?"
Future Fantasy?  As the Hatfields and McCoys would say, "Them's fightin' words!"  And does there need to be an either/or between science fiction and romance?  Millions of Han and Leia fans would say "I think not!"  (Not to mention Linnea Sinclair, Lois McMaster Bujold and Susan  Grant fans, to name a few.)  But seriously, this isn't in any way, shape or form sour grapes...or even stale Bannan karri-fruit.  The judges are entitled to their opinions, and some are not going to be SFR-oriented.  SFR simply does not compute in their paranormal universe.

That said, I did score exceptionally well in a couple of later contests, possibly because my manuscript was a SFR, so the Skiffy Rommer dilemma can be a two-edged laze saw.  Sometimes it's a huge plus to have an entry that drifts far away from the typical worlds the judges normally see in the Paranormal category.

But will Skiffy Rommers always face these same issues? 

The good news is maybe not.  Is there a major division in the Oort Cloud starting to manifest? That can be answered with a great big maybe.

My helmet is off, way, way off--heck, it's in orbit--for contests like the Launching a Star sponsored by the RWA Spacecoast Authors of Romance (STAR) chapter for splitting the Paranormal Oort Cloud into two categories where apples are not being judged against oranges.  (It's much more like McIntoshs against Red Delicious, at least they are both subspecies of apples and not a different kind of fruit altogether.)

Launching a Star sponsors categories for General Paranormal (paws, claws, fangs, fins, ghosts) and Fantasy/Futuristics (urban fantasy, time/dimensional travel, sci fi).  Much better!  Although sweeping interstellar romance is still pitted against inner city noir, at least the general themes of the entries are getting closer and on more comparable terms.  (Thank you, thank you, thank you, "billions and billions" [as the late Carl Sagan would say] of times over, STAR chapter.

To do my part in this Battle between the Paranormal Genres, I'll be announcing and supporting any future contests that offer a specific division for futuristic, SFR, RSF, and related fare as a way of encouraging this trend.  As the SFR community has already learned, the only way we're going to break out of permanent Paranormal containment is to put our actions behind our words and show support for trends that advance recognition of our subgenre.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Link to Dianna Love Interview

My local RWA group is sponsoring a conference this weekend with a workshop conducted by authors Dianna Love, Mary Buckham and special guest Sherilyn Kenyon.

Iowapoet blog did a three-part interview with Dianna Love focusing on her collaboration with other authors.  I thought it was a fascinating read.

Here are the links:

Interview with Dianna Love -- Part 1
On collaborating, plotters and pantsers

Interview with Dianna Love -- Part 2
Roles, compatibility and projects

Interview with Dianna Love -- Part 3
Humor is a must and other thoughts collaboration

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day 2009: A Personal Reflection

I received an email the other day with a tag line that really made me think.  It said:
America is not at war. 
The US military is at war. 
America is at the mall.
I don't know who the author of that statement is, but they deserve major kudos for summarizing the status quo in a few profound words.  Our brave servicemen and women are fighting the battles overseas and carrying out their missions on the homefront so that we can continue to enjoy life as we've always known it.  They put themselves in harm's way to defend our freedoms.  The tragedy at Ft. Hood, Texas last week reminded us once again that the sacrifices made by our military personnel can happen at anytime and anywhere. We owe those honored dead, and the members of our past and present military so much more than just respect and honor on special days like today.  We are forever indepted to them for preserving and defending our freedom to live as Americans.

Last week, my spouse retired from the military after over thirty-two years of service in a ceremony in Washington, DC.  I was humbled as I walked the halls of our Pentagon for the first time, saw the memorial to the 9/11 victims and observed the multitude of uniformed personnel in the corridors performing their duties to defend and preserve our nation. On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln ended his Gettysburg Address with the following words:  "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth."  It is our service men and women, our veterans, and all the generations that came before that have sacrificed to ensure our great nation endures.

To all the veterans, past and present,
and to the members of our military:
Thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Getting Art: The Unveiling!

If you've been following this blog, you know I've been working with cover artist Kanaxa (aka SFR author Nathalie Gray) on developing artwork for promotional purposes for my unsold novel P2PC.

Nathalie and I have worked through the process via email discussing ideas, concepts, colors, characters and potential layouts for the cover, but ultimately I left the final decisions up to Kanaxa.

Now it's finally time for the unveiling of the P2PC cover art.  Ready?

*whips off the white sheet*

Thursday, November 5, 2009

SFR Discussion on the Net

Heather Massey's The Galaxy Express blog recently hosted a three-part article series called Branding Science Fiction that has stirred up discussion on the net about what is and isn't Science Fiction Romance--and why we should care.

Here's an interesting discussion on the Fierce Romance blog [Science Fiction...for Women?] that you shouldn't miss, for the amusing quotes if not the discussion of SFR elements.

Ella Drake posts a humorous account entitled Green Goo: It's a Technical Term on The Raven Happy Hour blog that explores how science can create the basis for some fabulous What If? world building.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Discoveries in DC

I'm currently in Washington DC for David's retirement in a ceremony at the Pentagon.  (His mandatory  retirement date came up early because he started his career very young.)  As a little side trip, I visited the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum today.  What a motherlode for a SFR writer!

I got to venture inside Skylab to see the mechanics of many things we take for granted on a daily basis are adapted to the space environment.  Like showers, a collapsible tube that is pulled up from the floor, locked to the ceiling and has a hand held sprayer.  Can you imagine the chaos of showering in Zero G?  The dinner table was a four-topper with a funny contraption that reminded me a bit of a pomma-lift from my skiing days.  It had two pararllel horizontal bars attached to the floor with a small vertical post.  The astronaut would slide his or her thighs between them in order to stay in place while they ate their meal, which was contained in plastic bags or containers.  Yeah, chairs would be pretty useless in a weightless environmentl.

I also saw a 3-D IMAX movie on the International Space Station that was nothing short of awesome and gave me some wonderful :head movies" for my current WIP.  This up close and personal look at the origins and construction of the ISS, in addition to actual scenes from inside, outside and "day of a life in"  had my muse doing jumping jacks.  Ah yes, a Skiffy Rommer's idea of heaven.  :)

I also spent a lot of time in the solar system exhibit learning what I could about our neighbors in this little corner of space and the size and composition and other facts about the various planets and moons for my current WIP.

But one of the most pleasant and fascinating surprises I stumbled across was the artwork of astronaut Alan Bean. Bean who was on the second Apollo flight to land on the Moon--Apollo 12.  In later years, his need to expess his experiences emerged through his amazing artwork.  I can't post these remarkable paintings here because due to the copyright notice, but I can link to a just a few of a gallery that had me spellbound.

Is Anybody Out There?

An American Success Story
A patriotic statement--lunar style.

Mother Earth
You've probably seen the poster Earthrise.  This is Bean's version.

Being a New Mexican, the title of this one held a special meaning for me.

The Fantasy
This was a fantasy portrait of the three astronauts in Beans team--himself, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon, standing on the surface of a Moon.  It's a fantasy because, of course, Gordon was piloting the command module and never reached the surface of the Moon during the mission.

Now let me call your attention to this one:  Neil Armstrong

This painting clearly shows Bean's texturing process, which is to use the sole of an actual moon boot to add detail to the work.  He also uses a pick axe that was used on the surface of the Moon.

Go to this page for an introduction in Bean's own words and a videos about Alan Bean's artwork.

It was a very fun and edicuational day.  I hope to get back the the Air & Space museum soon.  (Besides, I missed the starship flight simulator!  Must. Go. Back  :))

Getting Art: First Glimpse

Last night I had a big surprise in my email. 

Step 5
A first glimpse of my cover art for P2PC!

All I can say!  It's dramatic and some of the elements are downright awesome.

(If you missed my earlier post on Getting Art, you can scroll down to read it.)

I'm sure it takes every writer time to "absorb" the first look at their cover art, since the image can never be exactly how you had it pictured in your head.  The cover is meant to suggest big picture concepts like mood, tone, genre and theme of the story. Some of the elements went far beyond the bounds of my imagination while others were very close to what I pictured.  I can't tell you how many times I opened...and closed...and re-opened the file again to take another look.  :)

Here are my impressions:

Characters: Very, very close...amazingly close to my mental portraits...based on the few excerpts and descriptions I'd provided.  Nathalie did a wonderful job capturing their essence. I did suggest a wardrobe tweak for Zjel that I thought was important along with a minor "prop" adjustment.

Layout:  Not quite what I'd pictured (as a non-artist, y'understand), but the image is powerful in scope and perfect in capturing the SF theme.  The more I study the design the better I like it.  It has drama and flair that my "head image" was totally lacking.

The Ship:  I loved how the ship was used in relationship to the overall design.  Brilliant!

Background:  Perfect for the SFR genre and the story I'm trying to tell.  It wasn't a concerpt that I'd thought of or described to Nathalie, so I think she had some ESP going for her!  It subliminally suggests the larger story behind the introduction of the two MCs and main character Zjel which isn't apparent in the first few chapters.

Colors:  More subtle than I pictured, but they work very well.  I made one request on color adjustment of an element, but I'm not sure how it will affect the overall product, so I'll go with the expert's opinion on that point.

Font:  I like the futuristic fonts used and the stark simplicity of it. The easy-to-read lettering doesn't overpower the details related via the images.
What's next?  I've sent Nathalie (Kanaxa) my suggestions for tweaks or changes, asking if they're doable, but  I think we may be very close to a final product on the cover design.

So that's the status report to date.  I'm really enjoying the whole experience of working with the artist on my cover design.  Most authors don't have the opportunity for this level of interaction with the designer.  The decisions about the cover art are made by the publishing house, the marketing department and/or the artist they contract and the author has little or no input until the work is complete. What you see is what you get.  (Though I understand from my peers that a few of the e-publishers are a little more interactive with the authors than the big paper publishers.) 

If I step into the publishers shoes for a minute, I can relate to their point of view.  The author is the expert in creating and developing the story, but once the contract is signed, the publisher is investing their dollars into the packaging and marketing and in that area they have the expertise, not the author.  (Unless, of course, you happen to be a cover art designer and an author, like Nathalie Gray.)  

That said however, I can relate to my peers' dismay when a cover is released with an MC that doesn't match the story's description--wrong color hair, wrong look, etc.  And I often ponder the covers that give me an impression of the MC--clean-cut, short hair--but the story presents a very different MC, i.e. long hair, spikey hair, etc..  Just my humble opinion, but hair style and length does make a visual statement about the character.  Do you agree?

Stay tuned for more on the process...and the final unveiling of the P2PC cover art on this blog.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting Art

Sorry for my hiatus on this subject.  I ran into some problems behind the scenes with my cover art design, namely the orginal designer has been pretty much incommunicado.  But!...I'm now very pleased to report I've found another designer and we've been very busy working on the cover art design for P2PC.

And even more exciting?  My designer is a Skiffy Rommer!  You can see Nathalie Gray's books on her website. And you can see her wonderful portfolio of covers on her artist site, Kanaxa.  I discovered her cover talent quite by accident when I stumbled upon an interview done by an author with cover art she'd designed (via my Google search for "Science Fiction romance").  I took a look at her online portfolio and I was sold!  I emailed her explaining the situation and she said she would be very happy to work with me on my cover design.  (Woooooot!)

Just to clarify, P2PC has not yet been sold.  The cover art is mainly for a site I'm designing for and about the novel.

As I previously mentioned, I hope to "unveil" the cover art on this blog, once it's complete.  This artwork will be used on a new blog I'm setting up for P2PC (or the final title, whatever it may be).

So here's where we are in the process:

Step 1
I summarized my ideas for layout designs and sent the ;images of three book covers that I really liked, why I liked them, and a few possible ideas how the design concepts might be used for the P2PC cover.  Ultimately, though, I'm leaving the design up to the expert.

Step 2
Nathalie asked for specifics on the story time frame, setting, main characters, tone or mood, ships, weaponry, other details, etc.  I sent a collection of images I'd compiled of my three MCs, ideas of Specter's design and several excerpts to illustrate scenes from the story, such as MCs first encounter with the ship, with Zjel (major character) and with Drea (female MC) and other scenes that illustrated the characters, their dress, traits and interaction.  We also discussed some ways of showing the characters without showing actual details of their faces hopefully without chopping off heads or turning the character's back to the reader.  (This isn't a do or die necessity.  I'm leaving that up to Nathalie.) I also sent some art resembling my mental images of Specter and details of her designSince cover art is meant to reflect the general tone, mood, setting and elements of the story, I know the cover won't be exactly like what I'm picturing in my head.  I'm very excited to see the end result but I told Nathalie to take her times.  I'm not working under any deadlines here.

Step 3
Nathalie wanted clarification on one very important point on my cover ideas.  My thoughts were that the two MCs and Zjel (a very major character) should be equally represented on the cover.  Nathalie suggested that this treatment on the cover would imply the story was a menage a trois, which P2PC definitely is not.  So I "rethunk" my ideas, and gave further input on possible ways to portray the two MCs and the major character without suggesting the story involves a menage.

Step 4
Now we're cooking.  Nathalie informed me she's zeroed in on the the ship, the hero and Zjel, but she's still working on Drea (female MC).  She wants a character that says "captain."  I couldn't agree more.  Meanwhile, I'm working on ideas for the backcover blurb.

And that's where we are to date.  We've covered a lot of ground in the last couple of weeks.  It's been a true joy working with Nathalie every step of the way, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the final product.

Now it's my turn to get to work on the back cover blurb.

Stay tuned for more on my Getting Art series.