Friday, November 30, 2012


Pippa’s fascinating post about the evolution of her new cover for Bones of the Sea had me fantasizing about the day when I would have to talk to artists about a cover for my own novel(s).  

For months, sometimes for years, we authors are constrained to put our concepts into words, describing vast galaxies, gleaming starships, slavering aliens (or maybe mouth-watering aliens) and exotic landscapes with nothing but lively verbs and bright adjectives.  How exciting to have an artist put those concepts into actual pictures on the page (or better yet, images on a screen—squeeee!).

For all authors, the choice of a cover is fraught with angst and seems a matter of commercial life and death.  Does it convey the right points about the plot and characters?  Does it project just the right emotional tone?  Will it attract the audience we want?  Will it stand out from others on a shelf—either actual or virtual?

But for science fiction romance authors, the choice of a cover is even more difficult.  Do we opt more heavily for planets and spaceships, hoping to scoop up the SF crowd?  Or do we boldly go for the romance audience, with a couple on the cover?  Should the woman be in front, or the man?  Should they be fully clothed or partially undressed, naked torsos or filmy ecstatic expressions?  Stars or weapons?  Landscapes or closeups?  So many decisions—and so much that could go wrong!

But, okay, let’s say for the sake of argument that this is my book we're talking about and I and my publisher/editor/cover artist/second cousin twice removed and his best friend all decide that I want to attract a primarily romance audience and secondarily an SF audience for UNCHAINED MEMORY.  We agree, after much discussion, that a couple should appear on the cover.  (That’s as far as I’m willing to speculate right now, folks.  I have another point to make.)

Great!  Now, what do Asia and Ethan, the heroine and hero of my novel, look like?  Here, I think, is where it all breaks down.  I can describe my people in the book with passages like this:

“Ethan Roberts was the deluxe edition—his dark blond hair a little too long to be fashionable, his deep-set gray-blue eyes examining me with what seemed like X-ray vision, his strong jaw skimmed by the barest shading of beard, highlighting the cleft in his chin.”


“He looked up to see a woman charge into the waiting room, her high cheekbones flaming with color, her amber eyes snapping with fire.  She was so furious she seemed on the verge of tears.  She was so beautiful he forgot to breathe.”

I can even say I wrote the characters with certain physical models in mind.  In Ethan’s case, it was Viggo Mortensen.  For Asia, I wavered back and forth between Shania Twain and Ashley Judd.  I started with those models, but eventually, as I wrote, the characters became themselves, someone unique and never before seen in the world.

The problem is, everyone who reads the book will visualize those characters differently.  So when the cover artist gives me her version of Ethan and Asia, based on what I’ve told her, or maybe even on what she’s read, it can’t possibly be what I’ve envisioned.  Her Ethan and Asia may be better; they may be worse.  But they will most certainly be different.

I don’t mind.  I find the envisioning of characters a fascinating process.  The “rule” in romance writing has traditionally been that your hero and heroine must be clearly described—eye color, hair color, height, weight, etc.  Some contest judges get a little OCD about this.  They want to know what these people look like.  But beyond a few particulars, I can’t tell you that.  You will come up with that picture on your own, no matter what I say.  I can tell you that Ethan has broad shoulders and narrow hips, but if you like guys big and beefy, and I’ve written him as a sexy character, you’ll fit him into your mold, and so will your girlfriend, who likes ’em lean and long.

Each writer has her own process for discovering the attributes of their characters.  Some are very visual and plaster photos of their physical models around their desks while they work.  Some work up complete background files on each character, with bios and backstories.  Some have music or other things associated with them.  I just sketch out a backstory (which I can change or add to as I go along) before I start the book, and I usually look for a physical model.
In my current WIP, Sam, the pirate captain who becomes a faithful agent of Rescue, friend of tracker Gabriel (from Trouble in Mind) and lover of Rayna/Dozen from the first two books, is based on David Boreanaz, of BONES and ANGEL fame.  Rayna herself is based on an African-American woman I saw in a picture once on a wall in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service training center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  She was a rock climber—young, vibrant, tiny and very beautiful.  I have no idea who she is, but I can still see her smile.  I took one look at the picture and knew it was Dozen.  

But then, I’m the writer, and I created Dozen.  Perhaps it’s no wonder that so many romance covers feature headless torsos or couples turned so you can’t really see their faces.  Those leave room for the reader to impose her own vision of the characters on the story as she reads.  Let's just call them “interactive” covers—and not feel so bad about them.

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Redesigning A Cover

Current Cover

The conversation with Dani ran something like this -

"Would you like to do an updated cover for The Bones of the Sea?"
I looked at the current cover. To be fair, it does look a little...shabby...compared to Keir and Terms & Conditions Apply. "Do you think Bones of the Sea needs a new cover? I know the text isn't great - I did that myself and the image was just a stock photo from Dreamstime." And despite having had GIMP for two years, I still can't figure out how to use it to put decent titles on my own cover art. Plus it is just a single stock image, one anybody can buy and use. But still...
"The text could be better, but I think it's a pretty good cover. I like the image."
I love the image but I would like the text to be better so we go for that. And so begins a day of ranting on Twitter, as not only do I fail to find the stock image on my memory sticks (always back up ALL your stuff, people!), but the DVD disk drive on my computer packs up. Argh!

Then Dani comes to the rescue and sends me this -

I was actually speechless. I LOVED it! Without even a discussion over image ideas, Dani had picked up on the key elements I'd always wanted in the cover but had neither the skills nor resources to achieve myself back when I published it in May 2011. I'd used a bought single stock image, with some text added - a wonderful image that I loved and I felt was evocative - but also easily available to anyone else to buy. This was just a rough draft she'd put together to get my thoughts on. And once I'd seen it, I wanted it.

Anyone who has read the story should be able to immediately identify with the image. Seeing this threw any plans of mine simply to put new text on the old cover. But the amount of bubbles meant that even at this size it was hard to make out the diver. At thumbnail - which is how most people will see it when browsing - it becomes impossible. So, much as I loved it, tweaking was needed. Below are three more versions, each with a tweak.

Larger Diver

No bubbles
Different diver

Dani wasn't prepared to give up tweaking until I was completely happy with the cover, and I have to say she's a joy to work with and one very talented lady. So this is my final new shiny cover for my free scifi short The Bones of the Sea - designed by Danielle Fine. Ta da!

Isn't it purty?! This will be replacing the old cover over the next week - I need to make adjustments to the interior of the book before re-uploading it to Smashwords. In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out Dani's website here if you're on the hunt for a cover design. (pssst, she also does editing and book trailers!).

In other news...


It's #pitchwars! This is "an upcoming event where agented authors, industry interns, and editors team up with aspiring writers to shine up their manuscripts and pitches to present to some awesome agents." You can check out all the details here. Currently the submission window is open until the 5th December for you to pick three mentors from the list (check carefully who is accepting what genres, as many are looking for those outside their normal preferred genre to read or write!) and submit your query and the first five pages of your manuscript. I have my mentors chosen and my query all ready to go, I just haven't...submitted yet. >.< This will be my first time pitching so I admit to being nervous. Yes, even with two book contracts under my belt. O.o There's also the #pitchMAS workshop on the 5th December here and you can see which agents and editors are judging the pitches here. The best of luck if you're taking part in either or both of those.


In line with Laurie's post about the latest space news, an article on io9 has shown the possibilities of exploring beyond our own solar system are getting closer to a reality rather than remaining a science fiction idea. Warp drive! Physicist Harold White is convinced he has a theory that will result "in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein's law of relativity." Of course it's all theory at the moment - there's no time scale on when this might happen, but his convictions seems to take it from being more a case of if to when. So, it's unlikely in my lifetime - unless one of those technological leaps occurs - but perhaps our grandchildren will be hopping from one star to another in a matter of weeks. It's a wonderful thing to consider. You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Space News Round-Up


Hints have been dropped. An excited buzz is running through the scientific world. Has the Mars rover Curiosity found something truly epic on the red planet? 

To quote a recent article from DVICE:  

If the folks at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory find what they think they've found, it'll be "one for the history books," according to the team.

The insinuation is exciting, to say the least! But team Curiosity is taking their time to check and double-check all the data before they make their announcement—if their suspicions check out and there’s something to announce at all.

Can’t really blame them. After the red-faced experience of prematurely announcing that methane had been found on Mars—an almost sure sign of life—only to discover the data was either wrong or the sample contaminated by properties from Earth, this time they want to be absolutely sure.

Of course my speculative mind is having a field day with what this news could be. Will it be truly Earth-…er, Mars-shaking? According to news sources, the announcement should come within a few weeks. (Like…maybe around December 21, 2012?)

Though the news is generally being back-burnered in favor of the latest football scores and political antics, USA Today may have summed it up best:

In 500 years, nobody will remember what sports team wins the championship or what tax rates were being paid by Americans, but they will remember what country discovered life on another planet...

You can read more at the following links:


What's your guess? What big secret do you think the Curiosity Team is about to break?


"The Last Pictures" is a very unusual art gallery that may claim the prize for longevity. 

It was put onboard a Russian communications satellite launched on November 20 from Kazakhstan, a satellite that could still be in orbit billions of years from now, maybe even after the Earth ceases to exist. The photos include images of a rocket, a typhoon, refugees at sea, Earthrise, a theatre, a church, a mountain and many other images.

Geostationary satellites, those that circle the Earth at 22,300 miles in altitude and spin at the same speed as Earth -- and so are locked into the same spot over our planet -- have orbits that virtually never decay. In this case, EchoStar 16 will serve as the perpetual "museum" for this extraordinary collection. 

Artist Trevor Paglen assembled the hundred images after discussions with over 40 scientists, philosophers, artists and engineers, and had the images inscribed using a nanofabrication technique that will allow them to last for billions of years. The collection is housed inside a golden disk that purposely calls attention to itself by looking out of place on the EchoStar 16 satellite, in hopes it may someday entice an alien race to investigate. The Last Pictures project was commissioned by Creative Time, a non-profit organization. 

See the images here > The Last Pictures Gallery

What images would you include in this "eternal" art gallery?


One of the decisions that came out of the European Space Agency meeting in Naples, Italy on November 21-22, was to provide NASA with a modification of the European ATV as a service module for the Orion program set to launch in 2017. Great Britain will provide most of the funding for the ATV/service module for the Orion craft, which will embark in an unmanned test voyage around the Moon.

This may lead to a joint multi-national mission that is less endangered by any one nations' political whims, and could lead to an ongoing international space exploration program.

Unlike the Space Shuttle, the Orion vessel is designed to leave Earth orbit, with projected Moon and EML-2 missions. EML-2 -- or  Earth/Moon L-2 -- is a spot in space on the far side of the Moon where the gravitational pull of the Earth and Moon essentially balance out, allowing a craft or space station to "park" there and create a platform for future Mars missions or exploration deeper into our solar system.  

What are your thoughts on the future of space exploration with international investment?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Terms & Conditions Apply is Go!

Cover Art by Danielle Fine
This week my third title (and second self-published work) went live on Smashwords, Amazon US and Amazon UK. Woo hoo! *fist pump* I'm so excited! I've spent the last couple of months polishing this up with my editor Dani (who is also responsible for the stellar cover), and I've really been looking forward to releasing it. So how does it look? Looking pretty shiny to me. :D

I'm still working on the Kobo site - for some reason even though it allows you to upload .doc and .docx, there are some funny symbols coming out in the text on the preview I downloaded, so my editor has attempted a reformat with Calibre and I'm hoping to get that sorted before the end of the week. I could let Smashwords upload it to Kobo, but I'm trying to retain as much control over my title as possible. Being in the UK, uploading direct to B&N is not an option, so Kobo it is. However, when Smashwords eventually gets around to it, Terms & Conditions Apply will be available for the Nook. Just...maybe not until after Christmas though... :(

In the meantime, here's the blurb -

“Welcome to Venus Ascendant, a Public Grade space station in the Andromedan Galaxy. With our open-to-all policy, any being in the universe can find their perfect R & R, romantic getaway or dangerous liaison at our purpose built resort. The on-board empathic AI Ganesa ensures that anyone coming to Venus Ascendant will find their heart’s desire, with suites that transform from luxurious boudoirs to sunset-lit beaches to dark BDSM dungeons. So come to Venus Ascendant and find exactly what you’re looking for!”

It was meant to be a romantic getaway for Marie and the love of her life Jaisen; a chance for him to get to know her better after months of her denying him more than a few stolen kisses. Instead, Marie finds herself dumped and alone on Venus Ascendant with no credit for a transmat and the next starship home not due for another hour.

But the all-seeing AI isn’t going to leave anyone aboard the space station with their dreams unfulfilled. Marie's boyfriend might not have made it to the station, but there are others willing and able to take on the role - even if they aren’t entirely human.

WARNING - not suitable for under 18's due to adult content

And the first review is already in on Goodreads and Smashwords - 

5 of 5 stars false
Read on November 19, 2012

"A space station, a woman who's been dumped, and an avatar... ingredients for a romantic cocktail delicately crafted by Pippa Jay. There were several surprises along the way, and some fabulous characters one can really sympathise with.

Having read Pippa Jay's previous works, and thoroughly enjoyed them both, it wasn't much of a surprise that Pippa has once again created a setting that my imagination is immediately at home in. The writing is vivid, and drew me into the story with ease. This is a quick, easy read, and a fabulous scifi romance."

Self- publishing is a different experience to being contracted to a publisher, whether that's small press or traditional. The onus really is on you to make sure that everything is right, that you get it formatted, uploaded, priced, tagged, described and catalogued correctly. I'm all in favour of retaining creative control and really owning the book you produce, but like anything there are pluses and minuses to it. I've been lucky to have the continuing support of my editor Dani, and friends knowledgeable in the self-publishing process - even though I self-pubbed The Bones of the Sea back in 2011 before I had the contract for Keir, I'm certainly no expert. Even uploading to Smashwords where I published Bones required a refresher on the process, and a couple of tweeted questions. Publishing through Amazon was a new experience for me, and I have to say the wait for it to come out of review compared to the almost instantaneous publication on Smashwords had me burning with frustration. No, I'm not very patient. :-P

But I do like Smashwords for the fact you can have your book converted to all digital formats, and distribution to outlets such as Sony and Apple, and B&N in my case. Plus they'll assign you a free ISBN. Amazon - well, as much as a monster as it is, I can't deny that Amazon is the place to really get yourself noticed as an author. Despite my annoyance with them over removing author reviews from books (because authors can't possible be grown-up and unbiased, or not be moved by some kind of personal gain when reviewing, according to Amazon, tsk) and their heavy-handed attitude in general, at the end of the day I need to sell books to justify staying at home to write, and it's the best place to do so. Watch my conscience squirm!

When using Smashwords, I highly recommend you download and use Mark Coker's Style Guide. Seriously, it'll save you a lot of time and frustration if you work through it, at least for your first attempt. Without it you're likely to come up with all kinds of formatting errors and be refused admission to Smashwords Premium Catalog - which gets you onto the other sites such as Kobo. As for Amazon - well, I used the same .doc that had been formatted for Smashwords (I will admit that Dani went over this for me as well - an extra pair of eyes is always useful!) and it looked perfect when I downloaded the preview. As with all things - and the guide states it too - check, check, and check again!


This week I'm taking part in the one day Black Friday Hop organized by Carrie Ann Ryan, with my wishlist for Christmas here. Next Monday is the monthly Amazon Tag party for the SFR Brigade. Just an FYI - the December tagging party will take place earlier in the month to avoid conflicting with Christmas week, although with the holiday so close I'm not expecting a huge entry that month. The January tag party will return to the normal last-full-week-of-the-month schedule. I'll be doing a small tour for Terms & Conditions Apply with a giveaway - I'll be visiting Misa Buckley here tomorrow, Monday I'll be guesting here with Chantal Halpin (one of my invaluable beta readers on this story) and at Backward Momentum with Jessica Subject on the 6th December.
I'm also planning to take part in #pitchwars. Yes, I'm agent hunting. I really didn't think I would be, and I'm not even sure the novel I've got is long enough - in fact, at 45K I'm not sure it's even technically a novel. But it seemed to good an opportunity to pass up. Pitch Wars is an "event where agented authors, industry interns, and editors team up with aspiring writers to shine up their manuscripts and pitches to present to some awesome agents." It opens "November 26: The coaches (listed on the linky below) will post on their blogs what genre/category they want to coach. They'll be very specific genres. Aspiring writers will hop around and decide which coaches best fit their manuscripts." You can find out more details here. I posted my three line draft pitches here for feedback, and I'd still appreciate any comments on those if you have time. *flutters eyelashes*


io9 published an article this week on Google's new star map called 100,000 Stars, which allows you to travel the galaxy from the comfort of your home. This is an awesome piece of space porn for anyone interested in astronomy, science or scifi. Want to map out the latest journey of your intrepid space travellers? Plan it out here.

On a purely personal note, I spotted a tweet on Tuesday that said '6 Must Read Sci-fi Romances'. I clicked on it, interested to see what someone had rated as their top six while desperately wishing I could feature on something like this. So it was quite a shock when I did see the list...and Keir was right there at the top! I had my hubs home sick that day, and I think my hysterical fit of cackling probably made him wish he was back at work. :-P With thanks to Anna Hackett for making my day with this list - and you should also check out her other recommendations on it here.

Ping Pong

Sharon - I've seen Ghost Planet popping up here, there and everywhere! Looks like things are going well.

Donna - here's to some decent scifi titles in the summer of 2013. In the meantime I hope people will be reading SFR if they can't watch it. :-P

Laurie - thanks for your pitch on my pitch. Printer failure has meant I haven't got around to working on a single master pitch with all the feedback I had, but soon!

Friday, November 16, 2012


As the battered residents of New York and New Jersey clean up from Hurricane Sandy, the rest of us await the onslaught of the more benign fury of the holiday season.  In this calm before the storm, Hollywood is fretting over whether any of us will seek to entertain ourselves with their offerings in the movie theaters.  

Will we pay $10.50 and up plus the equivalent of caviar prices for popcorn to see LINCOLN and LES MISERABLES, THE HOBBIT and the last installment of TWILIGHT, or will we stay home and stream slightly older movies on our computers and satellite feeds?  This is the time of year when the Oscar buzz begins in earnest and studio profits and losses are counted up.  Somehow the looming Mayan apocalypse (December 21, 2012, in case you forgot) pales in comparison to the thought that Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI could sink and take an entire industry with it.

Like publishing, the film industry is suffering a crisis of identity right now the likes of which it hasn’t seen since the 1950’s, when a television in every home meant bi-weekly trips to the movie theaters became a thing of the past.  The question is whether digital and Imax and Dolby sound and 3D can keep people coming into the theaters when they have so many—and much cheaper—viewing options at home.  The film industry execs are fighting back—I love the theater ad that shrinks the big screen picture to a tiny computer screen, then blows it up, with a title that says no story “deserves to be reduced to this”—but even they suspect it’s a losing battle.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Disney has bought Netflix sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Science fiction/fantasy films demand big effects—monsters and moonscapes, starships and space battles, aliens and alternate realities can’t be made real without them.  The big screen and all the new sight and sound technologies are a huge plus for such films. Audiences will always be drawn to theaters to see an AVATAR or a STAR TREK, an AVENGERS or IRON MAN or MAN OF STEEL. This holiday season will be a bit short of such blockbusters, though, Hollywood having apparently decided that the summer is more appropriate for “that kind” of film.

We do have the final installment in the TWILIGHT series, BREAKING DAWN, PART 2, in theaters now.  Don’t know about you, but I don’t consider this series science fiction/fantasy or SFR.  Paranormal romance and in particular, YA romance, yes, but SFR, no.  So for purposes of this discussion, let’s leave the human-vampire-werewolf triangle aside, as hugely popular as it may be.

Only one film slated for this holiday season, Peter Jackson’s long-awaited prequel to the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, THE HOBBIT, AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, truly promises to bring in the SF/F audience.  If Jackson and his co-writers (Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro) can recreate the magic they wove with the LOTR films, this first in three hobbit films is bound to be another instant classic. (Of course, this one is missing the talents of Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn, but you can’t have everything.)  

Now, if you’ve been following the story of the making of this film, you know that is a great big IF.  The film has had more than one director.  Guillermo del Toro, a genius with special effects, but a notoriously difficult creative type, dropped out as director and Jackson took over early enough in the production that he is now listed as director, when he swore he would not do the film.  There were delays and casting issues early on.  Some critics thought the film would never be made.  

But LOTR fans are a dedicated lot.   (Some of us have been around for a LONG, LONG time.)  Pressure was applied and Jackson submitted.  Much of the original cast signed on (Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee).  The film is almost here at last.  THE HOBBIT opens December 14 around the country.

I’m not the only one who recognizes the bonds between audience members out there.  In a “marketing by association” kind of moment, THE HOBBIT filmgoers will be treated to a nine-minute preview of the new STAR TREK 2 movie, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, due out May 17, 2013.  And the new year promises a whole new galaxy of intriguing science fiction, fantasy and, we hope, SFR films coming to screens everywhere.

That is, if we all survive the Mayan apocalypse.

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pippa's Journal - 11/14/2012

With Laurie slapping my wrist over the 'no successes' comment last week, I am quickly going to get one negative out of the way. I'm not going to complete NaNoWriMo. While some people might find that a fail, I don't. I've attempted NaNoWriMo twice now for different reasons, none of them being that I had to make the 50K mark at all costs. This time I'd been denying right up to the day it started that I would do NaNoWriMo this November, but I had a story in my head that I needed to get out, so I went for it. But at 21,297 The Overlord's Consort has gone as far as it currently can. I'm not at the end, but I've run out of steam and ideas, and it needs a lot of research and backtracking to make it a complete story, and that's not going to happen in the time remaining for NaNoWriMo. I'm not upset or disappointed by that. While I'm not sure what will become of the story, there's salvageable ideas and writing inside the mess, so it'll go into my WIP pile for a future project. And maybe the next NaNoWriMo I do will hit the target. :)

On the plus side, I have the final draft of Terms & Conditions Apply back from my editor, along with the tweaked cover. Squeeee! So I'll be spending this week writing a new blurb, formatting the MS to upload to and Amazon, and throwing together a very small tour to celebrate the release with a giveaway.

After that it's back to working on the SFR Brigade anthology story. I, um, still don't have the edits for Gethyon yet. I feel like I've been saying I'm waiting on those forever! I probably won't have a cover reveal until after Christmas either. Ah well, the wheels of publishing grind slowly! :)

As a further note on NaNoWrimo - I've always been an advocate of writing on a regular basis, daily if possible. It was something I got into the habit of during my Creative Writing Course with the OU back before I got my contract for Keir. But one thing I learned with this NaNoWriMo is that it isn't always a good thing to force yourself to write every day. Normally I count writing blog posts, blurbs, emails etc as part of my daily writing, but sometimes there are days when you should really just step away and take a breather, and NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT! There are days when you're sick. There are days when real life things need to take priority. And there are days you simply just need to stop. One of my favourite authors - Jaine Fenn - posted this article about it here. If writing every day works for you, great! But don't feel bad about it if it isn't the right thing for you.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Science fiction is all about the ideas, and is as unlimited as the human imagination.  Romance is all about the relationship, and traditionally, at least, this has been defined as the heroine, the hero and what happens between them.

A couple of posts ago I took a quick look at our heroines in SFR and pondered whether we weren’t in a leather-clad rut.  Now a recent blog post by our friend Heather Massey over at The Galaxy Express asking “Alien Heroes Who Fell to Earth:  Why Aren’t They More Popular?” ( has me wondering about the vitality of our heroes.

Heather (and her commenters) point out that some of the brightest lights in SFR—Susan Grant, Rowena Cherry, Susan Kearney and a host of others—have written stories in which hunky alien heroes have come to Earth and fallen in love with human women.  (Linnea Sinclair’s Down Home Zombie Blues reversed the male/female order with the alien commander as a female and the local a male, but the idea is the same.)  These books have met with some success, Massey argues, but none of them have provided the “breakout” novel we need to create the kind of market paranormal romance has experienced with its vampire and werewolf heroes.

Why not? she asks.  These aliens are just a little different from us, and they’re sexy, alpha males; the settings of the books are familiar (current day or near-future) and the science/technology is generally accessible.  You’d think these would be the ideal stories to draw in the romance audience and broaden the appeal of SFR.  There are actually two issues here—one having to do with setting and the approach to technology, the other having to do with the hero issue.  Let’s just talk about heroes for now.

Onscreen our SFR heroes tend toward action-oriented human starship captains like James T. Kirk, renegades like Han Solo or Firefly’s Mal Reynolds, or military men like AVATAR’s Jake Sully, Farscape’s John Crichton or the heroes of Battlestar Gallactica or any of the Stargate spinoffs.  All of them human (mostly).

You have to go back to the time of the proverbial SF dinosaurs to find the template for an alien sex symbol—the half-Vulcan Spock, First Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. It is crucial that Spock’s character was written as half-human.  That fact creates all his internal conflicts, but it also makes him that much more appealing to his human audience.  There is that tension between his human (emotional) half and his Vulcan (logical) half, but there is that attraction, too, the sense that there is something vulnerable underneath all the apparent danger of his forbidding Vulcan exterior.

That kind of push/pull is the same thing that makes the paranormal hero—a vampire or a werewolf, a demon or a fallen angel—so appealing.  The outside is all danger—ripping, tearing, blood-sucking, fear-inducing—the inside is all raw need and vulnerability.  The paranormal hero will only allow the heroine to see that side of him.  Spock—and by extension any good SFR alien/part alien hero—will only let his mate (and, of course, Kirk and sometimes McCoy) see that side of him).

This aspect of the hard shell/soft inside is such a part of the alpha male character that it could almost be a given for any subgenre of romance.  But it is a particularly necessary feature of the success of paranormal romance.  If we hope to duplicate that kind of success with SFR, our human alpha-male starship captains (as much as I love me some Jim Kirk) may not be enough.

My first SFR novel Unchained Memory features a human hero and heroine in a story in which the aliens are an unseen menace.  In my second book, though, the hero is half-alien (of another race than the villains) and poses a more intimate kind of danger to the human heroine. In that sense, the story of Trouble in Mind is much more like your typical paranormal romance, with the internal conflicts revolving around his alien character and her humanity.

Obviously I’m betting on the ability of readers, primarily romance readers, to expand the scope of their thinking to include alien lovers in with the vamps and weres, demons and others they’ve been welcoming for the past twenty years.  My guy is sexy and dangerous on the outside, vulnerable on the inside, too.  I’m just hoping the readers will give him a chance.

Ping Pong

Wow, Pippa, sounds like you are incredibly busy and productive these days!  Good luck with all of your projects as you keep churning out the words!

Cheers, Donna