Friday, December 23, 2011

To Space With the TechNerd Brigade!

How about a little hope for the New Year?

The effort to keep the U.S. competitive in space may be showing new life thanks to a friendly race between multi-millionaire tech geeks. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is the latest to join the private space technology scramble, bankrolling the design and construction of the widest airplane ever built to carry a new commercial spaceship high into the atmosphere. From there the ship would blast off into orbit using a booster rocket, a method that saves fuel (and money) over conventional rocket launches. The spaceship could hold as many as six people.

Allen is working with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan on the project. Space Exploration Technologies, a company owned by Paypal’s Elon Musk, will provide the space capsule and booster rocket for the venture, called Stratolaunch. Together the airplane-and-booster system represent “a radical change” in how people can get to space and it will “keep America in the forefront of space exploration,” Allen said.

Allen and Musk are not the only cyberspace tycoons with an interest in space exploration. One of Allen’s chief competitors is Jeff Bezos of Inc., founder of the private space company Blue Origin. Blue Origin received $3.7 million in NASA funds to develop a rocket to carry astronauts. However, its initial flight test ended in failure last August.

What is fascinating is that Allen freely admits he is following a childhood dream:
“When I was growing up, America’s space program was the symbol of aspiration . . . For me, the fascination with space never ended. I never stopped dreaming what might be possible.”

For those attracted to difficult technical challenges, space is the ultimate challenge, he said. “It’s also the ultimate adventure. We all grew up devouring science fiction and watching Mercury and Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle. And now we are able to be involved in moving things to the next level.”

For a writer, what is truly wonderful about that statement is that Allen so easily equates the dream with the reality, science fiction with science fact. If you can dream it, you can make it happen. If you have the will.

Of course, ceding the domain of space to private enterprise has its drawbacks, and science fiction has envisioned that future, too. The Space Merchants, by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, the ALIEN movies and other examples too numerous to mention have warned us of the dangers of letting profit drive the exploration of space. But these men seem at least as motivated by a sense of wonder as by the lure of any possible riches to be made out there. They are willing to go where our government is so far unwilling or unable to go.

So, good luck, fellas. You’ve found a much better way to spend your money than collecting cars and villas. May you live long and prosper and get us where we all want so much to go.

[Information for this post based on an article by Donna Blankenship and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press; photo courtesy Stratolaunch Systems.]

Donna’s Journal

Actions we've taken as writers. Where are we? What are we doing?

Those of you who are involved in trying to sell the written word in any way are well aware of the state of disarray in which the publishing industry currently finds itself. Agent Elaine English, speaking to the December meeting of the Virginia Romance Writers, suggested that this may have been the most disruptive year in publishing since Gutenberg.

English, who owns and operates her own agency in Washington, D.C., explained that with the rise of digital publishing, the legitimizing of self-publishing, the decline in traditional print book sales and the scramble for profits, no one in the industry is quite sure what to do. No one wants to make the wrong move, but at the same time, no one wants to be left behind. The result is a kind of paralysis in some quarters and furious change in others.

A few things do seem to be clear, according to English: the so-called “legacy” publishers are increasingly conservative, leaving new writers or slow sellers out in the cold. On the other hand, new opportunities with digital publishers or self-publishing are rising for those writers as e-publication in all its permutations becomes more respectable. Self-pubbing is no longer the dirty word it once was. However, anyone going that route had better be very savvy of the production, promotion and sales work required to make a go of it.

Those seeking publication with established digital presses should be aware that the contractual process is more complicated than it used to be, with both more rights and longer terms being sought than just a few years ago. English, who is also an attorney familiar with publishing law, suggested hiring an experienced attorney to review your contracts, even if you don’t have an agent working for you full time.

English spoke to the largest gathering of writers ever for a VRW Christmas luncheon. At one point she commented that she admired us for our perseverance in the face of all these obstacles, wondering, “Why do you keep doing this?” Most of us could only shake our heads. As Harlan Ellison once put it, we write because we can’t not write. It’s a curse.

Or a blessing.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa

And Happy New Year—I’ll be back in 2012!


Holiday Wishes

From the whole crew at Spacefreighters Lounge

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Laurie's Journal: Celebrating Traditions

It's the week before Christmas--a time of traditions and celebrations.
One of the annual traditions in the SFR galaxy is the annual SFR Holiday Blitz, a book giveaway which was just held last week across several different blogs. Spacefreighters Lounge was proud to host two SFR novels, QUEENIE'S BRIGADE by Heather Massey and STARLANDER'S MYTH by Melisse Aires. We were also happy to add a bonus offering of a $10 Amazon e-Gift Card based on responses. As of this writing, we haven't heard from the winners, so be sure to check the post below.

It could be you!

Other traditions include Christmas parties, family get-togethers, gift shopping and, of course, holiday treats.  Here in New Mexico we have many traditional foods that are unique to our state or the Southwest. There are bicochitos (Bees co cheat toes) holiday cookies, fresh made tamales (toe mall lays), and posole (poe so lay) a spicy corn stew usually made with pork.

Another tradition for the holidays--or really any time of year--are Frito pies. Yes, that's Frito as in the crispy corn ship made by the Frito Lay Company. No one is sure of the true origin of Frito pies, but local lore says it was invented in the 1960s by Teresa Hernández, who worked at the F. W. Woolworth's lunch counter on the plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At that time, Frito pies were actually made inside the Frito bags, which were sliced lengthwise and the ingredients poured in. Modern Frito pies are usually made in a bowl.

I asked one of my coworkers, Annette, for her authentic Frito pie recipe, and she was happy to write it down for me.


To make red chili and beef mixture, you'll need:
1/2 to 1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
chopped onions (optional)
garlic powder
Either frozen red chili or chili powder
2 dashes soy sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Brown the ground beef with onions, garlic, salt and pepper.  Once ground beef is browned, add two dashes of soy sauce (if desired), and 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for about two minutes. Blend chili (or chili powder and water) in blender. Combine red chili mixture with ground beef mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches desired thickness.

To make Frito Pies
Red chili and ground beef mixture (above)
Pinto Beans
Lettuce (chopped)
Tomatoes (chopped)
Onions (chopped)
American cheese (grated)

Spoon canned or fresh cooked pinto beans in small to medium size bowls, fill each with Fritos and pour red chili ground beef mixture (from above) over the Frito chips. Top with cheese, chopped lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Dig in and enjoy!

We wish you a very happy holiday, good times with family and friends, and the celebration of your own special traditions.

~~~*~~~   Happy Holidays From Spacefreighters Lounge  ~~~*~~~

Saturday, December 17, 2011

SFR Holiday Blitz WINNERS


The following winners of the 2011 SFR Holiday Blitz prizes have been selected using the randomizer:


Bookwyrm 369 wins QUEENIE'S BRIGADE

Jessica Subject wins $10 AMAZON GIFT E-CARD Blitz Bonus

Please email me at Lgreen2162 [at] aol [dot] com with "Blitz Winner" in the subject line so I can pass your preferred format (PDF, ePub, or Mobi) on to the author.

Thanks to everyone who participated this year and made the 2011 SFR Holiday Blitz a success!

Friday, December 16, 2011

SFR Holiday Blitz ~*~ BONUS ~*~

We've added a Blitz BONUS!!!

Thanks to your wonderful response to the 2011 SFR Holiday Blitz, Spacefreighters Lounge is adding a bonus offering!


Just comment on the original 2011 SFR HOLIDAY BLITZ post--or this one--to be entered for a chance to win an Amazon Gift E-Card of $10.  

Special note:  If you include "Blitz Bonus" in your comment, you'll be given an extra chance to win the bonus. But hurry! The 2011 SFR Holiday Blitz ends tonight at midnight EST.

~~*~~   Good Luck and Happy Holidays!  ~~*~~

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The BLITZ is On!

Yes, it's time again for the annual SFR HOLIDAY BLITZ whence multiple authors and blogs join together to celebrate SFR awesomeness and give away fabulous SFR novels!

Entering is FREE and EASY! Just leave a comment below and you're entered to win.

The contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 16th. We'll use Randomizer to choose one winner per novel and announce the winners as soon as they are contacted or no later than Monday, December 19th.  You'll have a choice of PDF, Mobi or ePub versions and the contest is open to participants world-wide. The authors will send the digital books to you directly so be sure to include either an email address or contact link so we can reach you before December 19th.

Spacefreighters Lounge is very proud and pleased to offer two fabulous SFR novels this year. Both novels have generated quite a buzz on subspace frequencies the past few months!

by Heather Massey

Captain Michael Drake desperately needs an army to save Earth after a crushing defeat by alien invaders. When his damaged starship docks at a remote prison colony, he discovers Earth's last best hope--an army to replace the one he lost.

But, Queenie, the feral goddess ruling the prison, has other plans for the rugged star ship captain. After imprisoning Drake and seizing his ship, she prepares to lead her blood-thirsty band to freedom before the invaders track them down.

Despite her intentions, Queenie secretly falls for the sexy, hotshot captain. Drake makes it plain he wants to win back Earth with her by his side. But is following her heart worth betraying her people?

~~~ * ~~~

by Melisse Aires

A steampunk spacewestern romance in the Starlander Frontier series.

Asteroid miner Jack Starlander stumbles upon the illegal sale of a woman and child with unusual abilities. In the ensuing shoot out, two important men die.

Jack, Sophie and her daughter, along with Jack's close neighbors, are forced to flee to safety. Their journey takes them into deadly danger. Sophie is a creature from myth and she recognizes the mythic thread in Starlander's family legend.

Perhaps his family legend can save them.

~~~ * ~~~

Just enter your comment below to enter for one of these wonderful SFR novels, then click one of the links below for another participating blog to see other SFR HOLIDAY BLITZ offerings.

And there's more! Based on responses, we may offer added bonuses, so you could have even more chances to win! Stop back often at Spacefreighters Lounge or "follow" this blog for more announcements during SFR Holiday Blitz Days.

Good luck and Happy Holiday Wishes from Spacefreighters Lounge!
~~~ * ~~~

Participating SFR HOLIDAY BLITZ sites:


Friday, December 9, 2011


Yes, boys and girls, it’s that time of year again. Time to deck the passageways, string up a few LED lights around the bridge and call it Hanukkahchristmaskwanzaa (or Ursplz if you hail from Terzon III, where the winter solstice comes once every three Earth years). Any excuse to celebrate, I always say.

Actually, I’m a huge fan of the holiday season. I go all out, bingeing on spirit (the nonalcoholic kind, usually) from Thanksgiving until Epiphany, when I’ll reluctantly take down the decorations and store them away for another year. Most years of my childhood, my single mom strove to make things bright, but we did have a few memorably tough holidays. I figure a person can have two responses to bad holiday memories. You can let them sour you forever on Christmas, or you can do what I’ve chosen to do. I’ve decided I’m in control now, so it’s a wonderful life at my house every year. So there.

I do think we are missing something important in the festivities, however. We need a good science fiction Christmas movie. That’s right, think about it. In all the vast library of cinematic SF, there is only one example of a plotline set around Christmas—1964’s SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS. This is a movie widely acknowledged to be among the worst ever made. What a disgrace! Take two of my favorite things, put them together and what do you get? Garbage, that’s what!

Surely we can do better. I did search the Internet Movie Database (I lurrve me some Imdb!!) in hopes of finding out if someone had. My search yielded one other title: EDWARD SCISSORHANDS!! Okay, first of all, does this admittedly excellent Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp really qualify as SF? I suppose it does have some key scenes set at Christmas, but it’s not quite what I had in mind.

I was thinking more along the lines of this alien who crash-lands somewhere in the Arctic Circle. He has skills—telekinesis and control of time and some forms of energy. He adapts to his new environment, gets a sleigh and a herd of reindeer and, uh, improves them. Then he begins to see what a crazy, needy world he’s landed on. How can he help? He taps into a local legend and voila!

I’m thinking maybe J.J. Abrams and Stephen Spielberg might want to collaborate on this one again like they did on SUPER 8. I’m sure we could throw a kid in there somewhere. Maybe an Inuit girl discovers “Santa” testing out the new souped-up sleigh on the ice, and so on. She should have a dog. And a single mom—oooh, there’s the romance connection! Dang, this can’t lose!

See? All you need is a little Hanukkahchristmaskwanzaaursplz spirit and inspiration flows like eggnog! Here’s hoping you find lots of all three under your Christmas tree this season.

Donna’s Journal

Ping Pong

I think your costume is terrific, Laurie (and be brave—go for the peek-a-boo top under the vest!). I’ve seen it all at TREK cons, believe me, and this seems quite classy. I’m not a dress-up type at all, though it’s the first question I’m asked when people learn I used to go to TREK cons. I’d much rather see what others come up with and, like Kaye says, let people remember me for my book rather than my “look”. (Soon enough I’ll be air-brushing my photos, too—they won’t even recognize the “real” me at book signings!)

Cheers, Donna

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dressing for Success...Sci-Fi Romance Style


Let me share something fun I've been up to--putting together a book signing costume. No, I'm sorry to report I have no news on the publishing front yet, but that doesn't stop me from thinking positive and looking to the future.

At last years' RWA book signing event, a peer commented that she wished the SFR/CDSF authors would dress the part, so she could have a clue who is kicking out the spacegoing romance fare among all those hundreds of authors.

Hmmmmm, I thought. Now that would be fun! Come in character...literally. What a great way for the authors in our subgenre to stand out.

Since then, I've devoted a bit of time (a very little bit in between writing, polishing, revising, editing, querying, platform-building and entering contests) to scour the web for parts to a subgenre specific (and somewhat novel specific) costume.

But where in the galaxy do you look for space age garb, ray blasters and like paraphernalia?

eBay (and a little imagination) is my friend!

I found searches using keywords "steampunk" and "futuristic" and occasionally "space pirate" netted the best results in finding the sorts of things I was looking for. What started out as a costume search and acquire mission for my female P2PC pilot--Drea--soon led to stumbling on some apropos items for a Katrina (3rd novel) costume, too. And that naturally expanded into a few costume pieces for Lissa--video reporter and stalked-keeper-of-dangerous-secret extraordinaire from The Outer Planets.

I thought it might be fun to share some of my adventures in costume hunting and the resulting finds with you.

Drea (heroine of P2PC)

Drea is an independent P2PC (Planet to Planet Courier) so a futuristic Fed Ex driver to the stars. (Or so she claims. *devious laugh* ) Pseudo military attire seemed a good bet as a starting point. I still had a pair of black tactical uniform pants from my reserve LEO days (and...OMG!...they still fit! *happy dance*) so I had the beginnings of my P2PC costume gathering dust--and just waiting to be noticed--in my closet. Hello there!

For the top, I found this great steampunk/star pirate vest on one of the steampunk seller sites. It has silver buttons-and-chains closure and some attractive pleating on the front.  Way cool!  Since it's snug and sleeveless, I paired it with a black long-sleeved t-shirt top. Nice, but the uniform needs something to break up all that black!

I had a couple of thoughts there. Shiny stuff and lots of colorful patches.

Shiny Stuff

I found this sleek cut-out, studded top at Boston Proper with the intent of wearing it to last years' FF&P gathering. That didn't go as planned, so it's now an alternate P2PC top that I think will look great under the vest. (I confess, I chickened out wearing this peekaboo top by itself to the FF&P Gathering. What can I say? Fail! hehe. I think wearing the vest over it might give me the necessary courage to venture out in public en costoom. :D


I had to get a little inventive here, since patches for entities and planets of registry in the year 3500 don't really exist yet. Here's a passage from the novel that gave me some inspiration:

Sair’s gaze settled on the registration numbers and bright red diamond insignia. Licensed out of the Azures, she carried the registry of preference for half the pirates in the galaxy. He blew out his breath. No kid of Mennelsohn’s would resort to piracy, would he? Zaviar Mennelsohn must have left a fortune to his heirs.

A search for a "red diamond patch" netted this US Army Class A Fifth Infantry Division patch. Perfectamundo!

Then I found this military patch to signify Drea's home planet of LaGuardia, a planet with an insignia of a flame inside a pyramid. Hmm, that sounds like a tough order, yes? I didn't think I'd find anything close.

Oh ye of little faith! Seek and ye shall find. This US Army Class A patch for the 7th Army turned out to be a great representation. Nifty, yes?

Now I needed something to represent Drea's line of work--a P2PC.  Maybe something with stars or planets or suggesting space flight. I ended up finding two patches that seemed to fill the bill, and since I discovered a second forgotten long-sleeved black t-shirt in my Summer Clothes box in the garage, I ordered a pair of each.

This is a color error patch for the 1st Space Brigade. Yes, really--such a unit actually exists and they do have a mission in space. I love the colors in this patch and was also happy that the color error makes it unique.

Here's a YouTube introduction of the 1st Space Brigade and an article if you want to know more about what they do:

You Tube Introduction to 1st Space Brigade

Developing Doctrine for the First Space Brigade

I also coveted this US Air Force Far East Gold Wings patch. The wings, sun and stars seem like a good fit for a space courier, que no?

Toss in a few additional patches for color and effect:
I thought these Weyland-Yatani wing patches from Aliens 3 would make a good addition. Maybe as cuffs?  What do you think?

I heart these blue dragon patches. Not sure how I'll use them yet, but possibly the pair running up the sleeves? or a single one up the middle of the back?...or just framed on my wall. Do dragons = space? They do in my universe. :) Thy could also represent an Anne McCaffrey tribute of sorts. (RIP *sniff*) I also collect dragons and these are gorgeous. Couldn't pass them up.


This P2PC captain can't very well go around bare foot, can she? Deck boots were in order. Black with a not-too-tall heel (can't see a star captain tippy-toeing around deck while she's outflying and outsmarting the bad guys attempting to board her ship and seize her...contraband). I wanted the kind of boots that say "A woman's place is on the Flight Deck" more than those pointy heel little numbers befitting a Seven of Nine catsuit. I was thinking something along the lines of a Harley Davidson motorcycle boot? Maybe with a bit of silver bling and buckles to match the vest. Eureka! Another eBay find and oh yes, yes, yes! There they iz.  (Can I haz pleez?)

I even found a touch of added bling to go with them. Boot chains with pyramid studs that match the peekabo top above.

Love how the silvery sparklies set off all that black, and you never know when they might come in handy as a weapon of opportunity for the savvy space express pilot, right?

Now I just needed a few finishing touches.

My P2PC pilot definitely totes some righteous personal armament--for self-preservation in the wild and predator-rich space lanes, ya understand--so back to one of the steampunk shops to pick up a grommeted belt with double thigh holster (I decided to only use one thigh holster for the outfit)

(Shadowy steampunk guy is kind of fun to look at, too.)

...and a sweet customized dual-action taza ray blaster to park in the holster.

And what pseudo-military P2PC captain's outfit would be complete without a set of silver Star Dog Tags to complete the ensemble. Shiny!

So there's my P2PC Circa 3500 costume. Space pirates and galactic superpowers, beware!

I'd love to hear what you think? Does it work? Anything missing? Have you ever put together a book-signing or Con-attending SFR costume? What did you include? Would you like to see SFR authors dress the part or do you think authors should dress traditionally and let their books speak for themselves?

Friday, December 2, 2011


A century before James Cameron took us on a 3D flight far above the jungles of a threatened planet in AVATAR, long before George Lucas dropped us in a starfighter and led us on an attack against the Death Star, before Gene Roddenberry put us on the bridge of the Enterprise in deep space and countless other filmmakers put us aboard starships and space rockets and fantastic vehicles of all descriptions headed for who knows where, before even Fritz Lang envisioned his great silent METROPOLIS, a little-known French magician single-handedly created science fiction filmmaking.

His name was Georges Méliès.

Méliès made well over 500 short films between 1895 and 1912 (some sources put the figure closer to 600+), the best known of which is a fanciful little gem titled A TRIP TO THE MOON (LE VOYAGE DAN LE LUNE) from 1902. Based loosely on elements of both Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and H.G. Well’s First Men on the Moon, this first-ever cinematic leap of imagination is more fantasy than true SF. Still, it does feature a rocket (fired by cannon, just as Verne suggested), vengeful Selenites, courtesy of Wells, and a view of the Earth from the moon that some 67 years later would seem astonishingly prophetic.

The filmmaker also took a trip to the sun in THE IMPOSSIBLE VOYAGE (1904), appropriated Verne’s title, if not his story, for a version of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1907) and broke into the horror genre with THE MERRY FROLICS OF SATAN (1906). Along the way he pioneered the special effects that would become standard for all filmmakers and essential for those making SF and horror films—stop action, split-screen, time-lapse, multiple exposure, and dissolves. He even hand painted each frame of his films to achieve the miracle of color. And all of these wonders were accomplished in one of the world’s first actual film studios, a building made entirely of glass like a greenhouse to maximize the light.

Despite his many contributions to the development of film, and particularly his place in the history of science fiction film, Georges Méliès is hardly a household name, even among SF fans. It took not only a movie geek, but a film restoration geek like Martin Scorsese to resurrect Méliès’s reputation with his latest film, the heart-warming family movie HUGO.

Even so, the connection with the early filmmaker takes a while to develop. The story begins with the film’s child hero, Hugo, who lives hand-to-mouth in Paris’ Montparnasse train station, or rather, in the clock tower of the station, where he keeps the clocks wound and in repair. His father, you see, was a watchmaker, and Hugo has inherited Dad’s skills, along with a rusted old automaton, the project Dad was working on when he died, and a notebook, the key to the automaton’s repair. Hugo steals parts for the repair from a toy vender in the station, one Georges Méliès, a bitter old man, who eventually catches him and takes the notebook in compensation. Hugo is devastated, until he finds an ally in the old man’s granddaughter, who helps him solve the related mysteries of the automaton and Méliès himself.

HUGO is touted as a “children’s” film, but only the most thoughtful of children will fully appreciate it. Yes, Hugo is the hero and much of the film follows the boy as he tries to avoid the nasty station policeman and his Doberman, or watches the goings-on among the station shopkeepers. Still, the best parts of the film are the flashbacks to Méliès and his crew making film magic on the set of A TRIP TO THE MOON or setting up a shot through an aquarium for 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. What child will really understand the loss when Méliès is forced to sell his celluloid films to be melted down into shoe heels during WWI? Only film buffs like Scorsese (and me) will mourn that moment.

What is delightful is that the film reflects the rescue that Méliès (and some of his work) found in real life. The approach of the First World War destroyed the success that the filmmaker had enjoyed, and the outbreak of war finished him. He transformed his studio into a theater, then finally closed it. He really did sell toys in the Montparnasse station in Paris for a time. Eventually, however, he received the recognition he deserved, and was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1931. Shortly thereafter his colleagues in the French film industry arranged a place for him in their retirement community at La Maison du Retrait du Cinema in Orly. He died in 1938, fortunately no longer forgotten.

It is certain that the great majority of people who see HUGO will have no idea who Georges Méliès was. No doubt they will assume the character played by the actor Ben Kingsley in the movie is fictional. But we’re science fiction writers. We should know better. We owe this man a debt, for helping us see, at least a little, and maybe a bit fantastically, the shape of things to come.

Donna’s Journal

Today is the deadline for submitting final manuscripts for the 2012 RWA Golden Heart contest, so hopefully you have all gotten your little darlings down to Houston in good time. I submitted two entries this year and RWA has confirmed receipt so I’m all nice and relaxed today—no chewing of fingernails wondering if things made it in time. How about that—planning really does work! Good luck to all that entered and may the best eight win!

In the meantime, I’m continuing to slog through the dreaded middle passages of Fools Rush In. Slow and steady wins the race, right? Ugh! I even cleaned my office in hopes of making it a more pleasant place to work. No help. *sigh* No doubt when I finish this thing everyone will love it. They’ll want ten more just like it! Aaaggghhh!!!

Cheers, Donna