Friday, March 29, 2013


Even Kirk and Spock had trouble with Nomad

Today’s report from the real world:  the technological future continues to retreat ahead of us.

Those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis know me as a something of a Luddite, despite my fascination with the mysteries of space travel, the possibility of alternate universes, the vagaries of time and other such wonders.  I still play CD’s, (in fact I can’t seem to part with my vinyl collection); I won’t give up my “dumb” phone; I don’t do Facebook or Twitter; I love watching movies in a dark, cavernous theater.  I even (gasp!) prefer a map to GPS most times.

So you may be surprised to hear that my television system is state-of-the art via DirecTV satellite HDTV hookup with DVR.  I never watch anything in real time, thanks to the DVR, and I could watch any number of movies or shows, thanks to Netflix or DirecTV OnDemand.  This is not to brag, just to provide a background for the next part of the story.  (Also I hate commercials.  Not that anyone likes them, but other people seem to be able to sit through them without wanting to toss something at the screen.  I lost that ability years ago.)

My husband travels overseas frequently for his job, so when DirecTV offered a new service called Nomad that allows customers to download pre-recorded shows from their home systems to their laptops or tablets, we jumped at it.  Netflix or OnDemand doesn’t often have the latest episodes of our favorite shows, or you have to pay to play.  This way, what we’ve already recorded on our DVR would be available for us to take with us anywhere!  Wow!

And, actually, when you think about it, this should be a no-brainer.  The DVR is a computer, right?  Why shouldn’t you be able to download stuff from one computer to another?  So, cool, get the little Nomad thingy, hook it up and we should be good to go!

Well, not so fast, there, pardner!  Apparently these computers need to be able to talk to each other.  Then there is the issue of the router.  And the security software on our mobile devices.  And the fact that the Nomad thingy is brand-new and apparently has bugs they haven’t worked out since very few customers have tried it yet.  And, of course, the DirecTV technicians haven’t all been trained on installing the Nomad device.  And on.  And on.

And you know how these things go.  First you try the install yourself.  All seems correct, but you get an annoying little “error” message on your computer.  You do it all over again, but the message keeps coming up.  Then you call tech support.  They walk you through all the steps you just went through, and the message comes up again.  Twice.  They try numerous things from your end and from their end.  They send you running up and down stairs (because, of course, the Nomad and router are located on one floor, the TV and DVR on another!).  Lights blink on and off on Nomad.  Lights change color on Nomad.  But still the error message keeps coming up on the computer, refusing to allow you to connect with Nomad online.  (At least Nomad does not try to take over the house or drive the cars.  Given Captain Kirk’s unfortunate experience with something of that name, we’ve been lucky so far.)

After at least an hour of this, tech support gives up.  The dreaded words, “we’ll have to send someone out,” leave her lips.  Darkness falls in your heart.  This will cost you.

Things are taken to the next level with the arrival of the technicians the next day.  At least they don’t make you wait from “8:00 until 12:00”, but arrive bright and early at the crack of dawn.  But hopes are dashed by the end of the visit.  The techs are stumped, too.  Nomad has defeated them.

So, currently Nomad sits blinking, happy, but dumb, in a corner of my living room.  The DirecTV folks, to their credit, have called 53 times—to see if we’re okay, to see if the service call worked out, to get more information once they figured out the service call was ineffective, to offer consolation, to avoid a lawsuit, for their robot to talk to Nomad, who knows why they’re calling?  Maybe they think if they keep calling we’ll eventually tell them to go away, and they’ll be off the hook.

The DirecTV folks say they haven’t given up.  They are giving the problem to someone at a “higher level”.  Do they mean The Man Upstairs?  The Great IT Guy in the Sky?  Think I better tell hubby to take a book with him on his next trip.  Jehovah probably has better things to do than to worry about the frivolous technology of his diversion-hungry creations.

Warmest Congratulations to all the GH and RITA Nominees!

This has been such a terrific week for the newest class of RWA’s Golden Heart® and RITA® nominees.  So many of them are our friends and colleagues from last year’s Firebirds class and, of course, our own Sharon Lynn Fisher leads the way with her RITA® nomination for Best First Book.  So excited for you, Sharon, as you gather one more in the many kudos for your excellent work!  And congratulations to all the nominees now headed to Atlanta wearing that shiny GH® or RITA® glow!

Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Spacefreighters Lounge congratulates 


Sharon Lynn Fisher

on being named a 


for her Science Fiction Romance novel


May the force be with you, Sharon!


If you're not a romance writer, you probably have no clue what a career-launching event this day can be. But if you are, you probably know exactly what it's all about, and what it means. (You can read more about the awards on the RWA web site.)

If you're one of the giddy new finalists who just happened upon this post, we offer you MANY CONGRATS! on your extreme good fortune and invite you to post your fantabulous news in comments below so we can squee along with you. 

Please feel free to ask any questions about the whole head-spinning Golden Heart process. We've had our shot at tripping down the light-fantastic road and we'd love to share the wealth with anyone who's been struck by the powerful, career-bending force of nature that is the RWA Golden Heart Awards.

Here at Spacefreighters Lounge, we have a Golden Heart record we're very proud of. Pippa Jay, who is already a successful author, has never entered, but as a group we can proudly claim multiple nominations. Let me recap:

Golden Heart Final by Sharon Lynn Fisher for GHOST PLANET

Golden Heart Final by Sharon Lynn Fisher for SHADOWED (aka GHOST PLANET)

Golden Heart Final by Sharon Lynn Fisher for ECHO 8
Golden Heart Final by Laurie A. Green for P2PC
Golden Heart Final by Laurie A. Green for THE OUTER PLANETS
(Sharon Lynn Fisher became ineligible to enter due to the sale of GHOST PLANET)

Golden Heart Final by Donna S. Frelick for UNCHAINED MEMORY
Golden Heart Final by Donna S. Frelick for TROUBLE IN MIND
Golden Heart Final by Laurie A. Green for DRAXIS

So please join us in celebrating all the shiny new tiaras being handed out today, and if you're fortunate enough to be wearing one, be proud! Trust us, for an aspiring romance writer there's no experience on the planet that compares.

~~~~~ * ~~~~~

Monday, March 25, 2013

Deep in the Heart of Taxes


As my blog title hints, tax preparation has been my main focus (read that: all consuming time-sucker) for the past week, so I have no major accomplishments to discuss, just some juicy tidbits and one minor rant to share.

And away we go...


So who or what is HUN and why is it attacking?

HUN my pet acronym for Horribly Unpronounceable Names. And they seem to be as prevalent in SF and SFR as Blister Bugs on Klendathu. (<<< Case in point. Can you name the SF classic that's from? No Googling.)

Have you ever noticed that SFR names often contain J, K, X, V or Z? And it appears that the unwritten rules of creating SF names also specifies the more unusual and unspeakable the better. Adding apostrophes and hyphenation only makes them more exotic. Right?

Not so much.

Just for fun, I surfed through some Amazon offerings in the SF genre and here's just a sampling of the HUN cross section:




The Zochtil  


Chigran Callnir system

Daulun Jongo




Krag Hegemony



Say what?

There seems to be a common school of thought that making futuristic words or names awkward and unrecognizable somehow make them seem more alien, non-human and thus, attractive. I don't think so, Tim. 

The current trend is to streamline words rather than make them more complex. For instance, gasoline is just gas. Automobiles are called autos or cars. Television is TV. Conversation is convo. Your vacation is your vacay. Details are deets. Yo, yo. Word. Ya feel me?

So why wouldn't this apply--may even moreso--to the future. 

True, aliens may speak in tongues that are difficult or impossible to say, but it seems more likely we would create our own terms instead of trying to phoneticize an alien language. Sort of like European colonists did when they slaughtered the names of native peoples, que no? That's why we non-natives say Window Rock and not Tseghahoodzani. 

So hat's off to the writers who are kind to readers by making their character names easy to say...and remember. Let's hear it for Sully, Han, Reza, Murphy (both of them) and Keir. 

And since we've been on the subject of making SFR more accessible to romance--and ALL--readers, wouldn't this be a good place to start? It's not dumbing-down, it's smarting up. If we're going to make SFR more appealing to a wider audience, let's make it more reader-friendly. I don't think Captain Mal would be a household name if Joss Whedon had dubbed him Captain Malfax'juri-kalos instead. Don't ya think?


So now its your turn? Have any pet HUNs you'd like to share?


Thanks to author D. L. Jackson for sharing this article on the dynamics of storytelling. Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats shared her genius with Io9. 

Almost all of this advice applies directly to writing and it's fabulous, solid and lightbulb-inducing.

These were among my favorites:

  • #4  A concise, four sentence road map to story structure.
  • #6  A simple guideline to building fascinating characters.
  • #9  A fantastic technique to help you work past those brick walls your hit in plotting.
  • #11 This explains the golden rule of why you should "Just Write."
  • #12 An easy method to make your work fresh, spontaneous and surprising.
  • #19  Seventeen words with the power to take your storytelling from mediocre to stellar.

This article was both confirming and inspiring. Really! Give it a read. Jot down notes. Save some of these nuggets for days when you just can't seem to kick any words out. 

And tell me which of the 22 gems spoke to you?


Yes! The classic returns in incredible realD 3D and IMAX 3D on April 5th! Should make for an exciting re-watch of a now classic Crichton SF adventure. As if the charging T-Rex in the rearview mirror wasn't in-your-face enough, now you get to have diabolical dinos leap off the screen and into your lap.

I even have a quote form the highly quotable Jurassic Park on my office wall:

"Creation is an act of sheer will."

Works for a writer, for sure! What classic Jurassic Park lines were your faves? Is a shiny new 3D release enough to get you back into the theaters?


Today, Bonham's auctions in New York City will auction off rare and valuable Apollo mission space memorabilia, after a law was passed allowing astronauts to sell from their private collections.

[Link with video]

Reportedly included in the auction are the "space magna carta" document where the USA Apollo and Russian Soyuz missions pledged cooperation, effectively ending the cold war space race. It's expected to fetch up to $100,000. 

Also up for auction are notes from the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, deemed the "Successful Failure" where an explosion in space aborted plans to land on the Moon but did culminate in the safe return of the three astronauts to Earth, despite enormous obstacles. Among the items up for bid are the actual hand-scribbled notes from the mission.

Items from Buzz Aldrin's collection--including checklists and an item described as an "asset from the lunar surface"--were also reported to be among the items available, although Buzz Aldrin himself refuted this in another report.


If you're a SFR writer or author, or simply interested in the mysteries of space, Donna's article VOYAGER POISED ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER is a must read! It appears "galloping around the cosmos" may be much more mysterious and complex than even our brightest minds imagined. What great story fodder this is! Many kudos on another blog masterpiece, Donna.

Pippa, loved your take on a SF classic, DISCOVERING FIREFLY, which sparked quite a discussion. Blending western and SF tropes seemed to work well for this breakthrough TV-evolved-into-motion-picture phenomena, but that doesn't mean it's wholly captivating to everyone.

Sharon, my thoughts and hopes are with you as this week unfolds with all its opportunities and challenges. 


Please stop by Spacefreighters Lounge tomorrow, Tuesday, March 26th, as we celebrate the tiara-crowning of another crop of Golden Heart finalists, and contemplate not having a Spacefreighters co-blogger in the GH competition for the first time in several years. (Though that's not to say we may not have a stake in the day!) We'll be here to post the GH announcements as they unfold, congratulate peers and acquaintances, and answer questions for first timer Golden Heart finalists. (Trust us, you may not realize what great but mind-spinning fortune has just befallen you!) Yup, we've been around this racetrack a few turns, and we'll be happy to share our veteran's tips with those just jumping behind the wheel for the first time. 'Til then!

~~~ * ~~~

Friday, March 22, 2013


I confess that when I hear “Voyager” my mind conjures a vision of the ethereal Persis Khambatta demanding of Captain Kirk, “V'Ger needs the information!”  So this week’s news from NASA that our far-space probe Voyager 1 (launched in 1977) had reached the “edge” of our solar system was a pulse-pounding moment of excitement.  We were finally crossing our collective threshold, stepping outside into the larger universe, even if it was only by the proxy of a mechanical probe, incapable of sending anything but the most rudimentary signals back to us.  And if anyone or anything was out there to find it, “V'Ger” would be evidence that something intelligent was on this end, seeking contact.

Well, alas, it seems we’re not quite there yet.  NASA scientists had to back off their declaration almost immediately, explaining that determining just where the solar system ended wasn’t easy.  According to an article on, the probe is currently now somewhere along the outer boundary of the system “where the Sun's influence ends and the electrified solar wind slams into the thin expanse of gas between stars.”  

Scientists believe that where the solar wind meets interstellar gas, a shockwave develops, known as termination shock.  The solar wind becomes denser and hotter, and the magnetic field flares and distorts.  And, indeed, the little probe is sending back data confirming the theories.

"The consensus of the team now is that Voyager 1, at 8.7 billion miles from the Sun, has at last entered the heliosheath, the region beyond the termination shock," said MIT's John Richardson, principal investigator of the Voyager plasma science investigation.  

Beyond that, however, the scientists are not certain of the exact limits of the boundary area.  What we know of the outer reaches of our solar system we know from telescopic observation, mathematical deduction and, yes, you guessed it, the Voyager probes, 1 and 2.  That leaves a lot of unknowns, even as close as the nebulous edge of our solar system.

Oh, but wait, you say!  There were other probes sent out!  Yes, two of the Pioneer probes (10 and 11), sent even earlier in the Seventies, are now nearing the same boundary zone of the solar system.  But data from these probes are raising even more questions for another set of scientists, questions that may eventually shake the foundations of our thinking about gravity.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist John Anderson first discovered in the 1980’s that the two Pioneer spacecraft should be at least 400,000 kilometers further out toward the edge of the solar system than they are. He eventually told colleagues Slava Turyshev at JPL and Michael Martin Nieto at Los Alamos National Laboratory about this “Pioneer anomaly” and they agreed. Something is holding the probes back, something beyond a failure of the craft systems themselves, which were tested and found to be in perfect working order. 

The researchers do not yet know what that “something” is, but there are three possibilities, according to 

  •     Invisible dark matter is slowing the probes    
  •   Other dimensions influence the movement of the probes in ways we can’t measure     
    • Gravity works differently than we think
If any of these are true our current theories of gravity and physics need significant revision.  But determining that will require a new mission from Earth.  Both of the remaining Pioneer spacecraft have sent their last signals on their way out of the solar system.  NASA, with its limited budget, may not be able to investigate, but the European Space Agency has indicated some interest.

The fascinating thing about all of this for us as science fiction writers is that these mysteries exist so “close” to home.  We don’t have to take our heroes and heroines into deep space to find a challenge.  Science is proving that our immediate neighborhood hides its own secrets.  Laurie sets her novel The Outer Planets in our homey little solar system and manages to find plenty of excitement.  In my Interstellar Rescue SFR series, I posit a jump node (wormhole-type travel gate) to other more populated parts of the galaxy right at the edge of our solar system that makes Earth a target of nasty aliens.  So now the scientists say there may be “other dimensions” messing with our space probes on the boundary of the system?  Woohoo!  Uh, well, sorry NASA, but that’s great for my story!

Donna NEEDS the information!

Information for this blog was taken from:
 “Voyager Probe Poised to Plunge into Interstellar Space”, by Robert Roy Britt, Senior Science Writer, (

“The Problem of Gravity: New Mission Would Probe Strange Puzzle,”  by Robert Roy Britt, Senior Science Writer, (

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Discovering Firefly

Last week a friend loaned me the entire series of Firefly on DVD. Okay, so I'm a bit late to the Browncoat party, but with at least one of my Spacefreighter buddies being a fan, I felt I ought to look it over (and I rarely pass up the chance for scifi). I'd seen Serenity and enjoyed it. So, what did I think?
I'm disappointed there was only one series. The first season of anything generally only gives you an introduction to the characters and the universe. What I saw promised so many more storylines to come. Frankly I didn't warm to Captain Mal all that much, but compared to the film I felt his strange code of...honour?...probably had some explaining to come. The story with Simon and River had barely got started - again, I'm assuming the development of that might have appeared in summarized form in Serenity. In fact, I get the impression that Serenity was pretty much a super concentrated story arc that should have covered at least three seasons of Firefly had it got that far (Browncoats, please feel free to put me right). My impression of Firefly? Whedon took the frontier history of the US and thrust into space. That works fine for me. Breaking into new territories whether a new continent or new planets is going to follow a parallel. I liked the overall grungy, almost steampunk feel of the ship - again, like current society you'll have the rich, poor and primitive sectors same as modern cities and countries. I liked that it wasn't all high tech gadgets and laser blasters. My one issue with all the Star Trek series has been the almost utopian overall feel with sparkly smart spaceships and laserbeam phasers. Loved the galactic language, although I'd have liked a transalation. I'm guessing it was Chinese (or based on it). I've used a universal language in several stories although in my earlier works (and the UK scifi comedy series Red Dwarf) Esperanto was used. Again, ST translators always seemed too pat - anyone who has used something like Google translate will know how iffy that kind of program can be. The hospital on Ariel struck me as odd - considering they could rearrange someone's brain, why were they still conducting heart bypass and cracking open someone's chest to do cardiac massage? Some aspects of this projected future didn't quite gel for me.
Characterwise, the sexual tension between Simon and sweet, naive and yet tech savvy Kaylee, and between Mal and Inara had me screaming at the TV (and on Twitter). So I must have enjoyed it. I cannot, however - spoiler alert - forgive Whedon for killing off Wash. Him and Zoe were my fave couple in the series. And Jayne? Well. He didn't pretend to be anything he wasn't, and with that name I can understand his 'tude. Jaynestown showed he had some conscience, albeit a warped one. And being as Jayne is my middle name (that's where 'Jay' comes from) I still had a soft spot for the dude. River's chaotic nature just put an edge on the whole thing with never knowing what she might do next, although I think it was carried off better in Serenity.
Overall I enjoyed this but couldn't really invest myself in the series, knowing there's no more to come. Which is a gorram shame...

Additional - After a furore on Twitter over Kickstarter funding for a Veronica Mars film, the immediate aftermath was - why doesn't Joss do that for Firefly?! Well, you can read his response here.


Well, Entangled's new, shiny submission process did deliver on its promise of a four week response time. Unfortunately for me it was a no. However, Tethered is still with the original publisher I submitted to, although it'll be mid April at the earliest before I hear from them. In the meantime I'm researching other publishers.
Flaming Angel, a scifi short for an in-house anthology call, is still being tweaked. With the next school holiday in less than two weeks, I really want it gone, even though the final submission date has now been extended. I haven't done much on the writing front due to some real life stuff, but I'm hoping to finish my cyberpunk short for the Sword and Laser anthology before the school holidays too.


A great post by Allan Douglas on exotic space propulsions. It's something I've been reading up on more, to use in my books. Although I've vaguely picked up on varieties of inter- and intra-stellar transportation, I've kept the detail light because my scientific knowledge is shaky. But I want to improve it. So for anyone just starting to think about space travel for the first time, go here.
The Dee Mura Literary Agency have a new agent - Kaylee Davis - and she's looking for science fiction, among other things!Take a look here.


The Rites of Spring Blog Hop is on, celebrating firsts. I'm sharing Keir's first kiss, with a $5 gift card and a copy of Terms & Conditions Apply as my giveaway. The Grand Prizes are a Kindle Fire and a $50 Amazon gift card!Go here!
There's no Cover Love post this week, also due to the hop, but you can still check out Jessica Subject's post here. The next post is fantasy covers with UF author Chantal Halpin.
Next week I'll start posting details for the SFR Brigade's second blog hop, with a theme suggested by Greta van der Rol - Out of this World. Watch out for the info!


My review of Neal Asher's Zero Point (hard scifi) is now live on the Fantasy Book Review site here. At the moment I'm reading Revenge of the Mad Scientist by Lara Nance (steampunk). There's no Read Only Wednesday this week due to the Rites of Spring Blog Hop, but the following week will be Downside Girls by my big favourite Jaine Fenn (scifi/space opera).


I have Space Above and Beyond as my next scifi series to catch up on.

Ping Pong

Laurie, great posts on sitting out the GH and your agent interview. Thanks to Amanda for her contributions.