Friday, August 30, 2013


Hmm.  Either it's an alien lifeform, or appendicitis.

Sorry to say there won't be a long post from me this week.  I'm neck-deep in a regen tank after having an emergency appendectomy on Tuesday at my local hospital.  (Well, I'm really just recovering at home, but the regen tank is SO much cooler to think about.)  I'm doing fine and I'll be back next week.  Carry on.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Warm Bodies was strangely heart-warming...

Donna is normally our resident film critic, but I wanted to share this one. I know zombies aren't technically scifi - they have their own genre, and I'm seeing the odd zombie romance springing up (ZR?) - but I thought I could sneak this in as a kind of dystopian romance. ;)
I'm going to format this as I do my book review - what I liked, what I didn't like, and my conclusion. Let's start with a blurb and trailer.


Life for Julie (Teresa Palmer) and R (Nicholas Hoult) couldn’t be more different. R is a zombie; with a great record collection; limited vocab and an overpowering love of brain food.  Julie is a human; beautiful; strong; open minded and all heart. When R makes an unexpected decision and rescues Julie from a zombie attack, his lifeless existence begins to have a purpose. As the unlikely relationship develops, R’s choice to protect her sets in motion a sequence of events that might just change both of their worlds forever.  Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50) and based on the debut novel by Isaac Marion, the heart-warming Warm Bodies is 2013’s zom-rom-com with a twist.


What I didn't like:

Okay, there were plot holes. Why didn't the Bonies (the super scary zombies) attack the human city waaaay before they did in the film? For a matter of fact why didn't the 'normal' zombies (Corpses)? How convenient that the best looking and teen zombie fell for the pretty blonde? (Okay, that latter bit is sort of explained in the film, and a suitably 'eww' reason - we ARE talking zombies after all). And oh how I cringed at the balcony scene, bearing in mind the girl is Julie and the zombie hero is R. It might have had Shakespeare crawl out of his grave to eat brains. A lot of things were rather convenient and/or kind of glossed over. The 'cure' seemed too simplistic, but I suppose the idea is that love conquers all, even the zombie apocalypse. (Some of this is explained in the book, but the book is different, and I still think some of it could have been explained in the film).

What I did like:

I don't watch zombie films and I don't like horror. But after seeing my editor and a fellow author raving about the book, then seeing the trailer on TV, I decided to give it a try. And I loved it! The horror element ( the super scary bonies) WAS scary (I don't like to be scared), but not enough to make me uncomfortable or give me nightmares. It was nicely balanced out by the sweet romance, the humor, and the intriguing idea that zombies could change, and an insight to a zombie's mind - such as they have. There's a bit of an Edward Scissorhands feel to it. I never quite knew where the story was going and how they were going to make it work - it surprised me a few times. Nothing came out quite how I expected, which was refreshing. And R's fellow zombie Marcus was a great supporting character. Two favourite bits - Julie attempts to play dead at R's prompting, and he has to tell her 'Too much.' When Julie confesses she's missing R to her best friend, the comment was 'I know it's hard to find guys, what with the zombie apocalypse and all...' The casting for R and Marcus was, for me, genius.

In conclusion:

This is a teen love story, but without the often whiny teenage angst - when they did whine, they seriously had things that deserved to be whined about! Essentially a Beauty and the Beast type trope. The idea of setting something AFTER the zombie apocalypse, and from the zombie's point of view made an intriguing change. Horror/undead fans will probably be hugely disappointed by the lack of gore and things to make you jump out of your skin, while Shaun of the Dead fans might enjoy it. This is also probably a bit on the light side for those who want a deeply meaningful, cerebral kind of film, scifi or otherwise. While it might be in the Twilight camp of films, I quit Twilight 40 minutes in out of sheer boredom but can't wait to watch this again! (note - I *have* watched it again, and loved it even more on the second run. And I got the book from the library. Different, but still loved it. I'm still trying to figure out how the author made me empathize with a flesh eating, brain-craving monster!). I want more!

Pippa's Journal

I'm away from my computer this week, so there'll be no last minute updates  before this post goes live. Next week my little monsters go back to school and my work will restart in earnest. I have three short stories to write/finish, and my decopunk superhero story to complete. Perhaps inspired by Warm Bodies I'm currently 6K into a brand new Venus Ascendant story (to go with Terms & Conditions Apply, although with completely new characters). My dealers table at LonCon 3 has just. been paid for. And I've just been invited to blog once a month at Romancing the Genre. The fun never stops!

Ping Pong

Donna, loved the post on making fight scenes realistic. It's one of those things I fret over having no experience, but like everything else research is the key.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Bruce Lee delivers a self-defense lesson

 Many of you know I’m a martial artist by training.  In fact, teaching karate and tai chi has become my official “day job” in recent years, as I have taken on more classes at three local YMCA’s, at Germanna Community College and at Heartfields Assisted Living Center here in Fredericksburg.

But not many people know I started my martial arts career out of a desire to make my writing better.  I took my first karate class more than twenty years ago because I wanted to put fight scenes in my STAR TREK fan fiction. (Really, you can’t write Jim Kirk without putting him a good fight scene!).  I realized pretty quickly that I knew next to nothing about how to choreograph those scenes for the reader.

It’s one thing to watch Jim Kirk (or Bruce Lee or Jason Stratham) kick butt over and over again on the movie or television screen and quite another to translate all that action into words that convey both the movements and the electricity of the scene.  Some writers want to describe the scene blow-by-blow, losing the emotional and energetic impact of what’s happening along the way. But too often, particularly in romance, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction, and the movements actually make no physical sense.  The hero flattens the villain with one punch, or the heroine improbably escapes the villain with a kick to the groin (the most overused device in self-defense—and fiction).

Of course, not all of us have martial arts training, but that’s no excuse for making assumptions in our writing.  Fight choreography should be treated like any other kind of research for your book.  In other words, if you don’t know from personal experience, make an effort to find out.

Recently, I was painfully reminded of this point while reading a RITA-nominated romance novel.  There was much to like about the novel—characters, setting, pace, plot and so on.  But in one scene, the writer failed so completely that I’m still shaking my head.  The heroine had been captured by the bad guys, and the hero came to save her.  She, being a spunky sort of gal, wanted to take part in her own defense, so she struggled against the big, ugly man who had hold of her from behind, his hands clasping both of her wrists.  Now, somehow, I don’t remember quite how, she had a knife in her hand.  She managed, despite this big man holding her, to reach over her shoulder and stab him in the eye, killing him.

Okay, as someone who actually teaches knife defense, I can tell you this would never happen.  Just try, right now, sitting comfortably in your easy chair at home, to reach up and over your shoulder with your closed fist.  (If you like, you may imagine you are holding a knife.)  What kind of strength do you have in this movement?  Now, imagine that someone much stronger is holding you by both wrists.  Think you could get that fist up there before he could move his head to the side?

I may be making a lot of this, but this kind of thought process is what you have to go through when you plot out a fight scene between your heroine or your hero and your villain.  Where is she standing?  Where is he standing?  How much strength would it take to do what you are suggesting?

It’s not easy to stick a knife in someone’s eye on a good day, much less in the way this author was suggesting.  If she’d had any self-defense training, she would have known that it would have been much easier for her heroine to slip slightly to one side and stab downward toward the villain’s groin or thigh with the knife.  Still deadly and plenty enough to get her out of that situation.

Most fights last only a few seconds, but few fighters can knock someone out with one punch.  When adrenaline is high, even trained fighters miss their targets, get their techniques blocked or fail to use enough power.  The best fighters—and the writers who choreograph their moves—are able to identify and exploit weaknesses in their opponents, to use the weapons at hand and to protect themselves.

So, if all those things are true, you can’t expect your hero to fight for ten pages in an empty room, to get hit multiple times in the head with a baseball bat and keep on fighting, or to swing and miss over and over again.  Yet you see these things happen in movies a lot and on the page even more.  At least in some romance novels, the paranormal heroes have superpowers.  But if you’re writing contemporary, romantic suspense, historical or SFR with a human at the helm, please consider reality.

An easy way to get a feel for the reality of self-defense is to take a class at your local parks and recreation department, police department or community college.  These are usually inexpensive and last a few weeks, but give you the basics of street defense.  From a writing point of view, they give you a sense of what is possible and not possible when working one-on-one.  There is really no substitute for physically trying some things yourself.

Going deeper, you can ask martial arts and self-defense instructors for help and suggestions in working out scenes.  (Really.  They’d be fascinated.)

Before you commit any words to paper, be sure the movements would work in real life.  Try doing them with a partner (without sharp objects, of course).  Chances are, if you can’t walk through them, no one would use them in a real situation.

Once you have the scene plotted out, the key to writing it is to use short sentences, lively action verbs and the fewer descriptors the better.  Paranormal and SFR author Angela Knight occasionally teaches online workshops through Romance Writers of America on writing better fight and battle scenes.  Watch for the next one and take advantage if you can.  I can’t recommend her workshops highly enough.

And if you’re ever in Fredericksburg, come see me.  I’ll be glad to teach you—or your heroine--how to throw a proper punch!

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Bad should the Bad Guys be?

I love reviews where readers have picked up on the details, themes or images I'm trying to get across. I'm even interested in the bad reviews, to see what didn't work or simply wasn't to the reader's taste. But I'm even more fascinated by things readers comment on that hadn't even crossed my mind. For instance...

A recent review for Gethyon mentioned how all my bad 'guys' in the story had no redeeming features (in all but one case I agree, although I know something about one of the villains that readers have yet to learn. Shhh!). They were, to quote 'just bad, plain and simple.' So that got me thinking. Does an antagonist have to have any redeeming elements? Should they? And exactly how 'bad' should they be?

I'm not someone who believes a villain should or needs to rape, murder and pillage (in fact, too much of that completely turns me off a book no matter how good the rest of it might be. I quit reading the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks because the volume of rape, not just of women incidentally, and the number of significant characters killed off by the start of the second book just destroyed my enjoyment of the story and writing. I no longer cared if the good guys won because I'd had enough. Generally, if I know a book has a detailed rape scene, even if not done to glorify it (and I don't understand anyone who would write a story that does glorify it) I won't buy/read it. That's a personal turn off.

Murder/theft/war/violence are different things. People kill, steal, or go to war for lots of reasons, and readers may or may not forgive a character for it. One of my early crit partners for Gethyon told me I needed to make his character more sympathetic because she was having a hard time empathizing with him despite the circumstances. Fair enough on the protag. You want your reader to have some reason to cheer him/her/them on. But what about the villain? They may feel totally justified in killing. A recent example that springs to mind is Serene Galahad in Neal Asher's Owner trilogy. She felt completely vindicated in killing off Zero Asset citizens - those who had nothing to offer humanity, who were putting a greater strain on the potential survival of the human race at all, and who would die anyway - for the benefit of society as a whole. Harsh, but you could see the logic of it, in terms of a global viewpoint. Of course, ultimately she veers away from her good intentions as revenge, personal necessity and a gradual descent into megalomania take over. But faced with the realities she was, perhaps even the 'good' guys would make the same initial choice. Societies go to war for what they often see as necessary - ideals such as freedom, crushing oppressors, religious fervour, destroying a global threat, etc Both sides may have their justification, and it's always the winning side who declare the bad guys as those who lost.

It made me look at my villains again, and their motivations. The Siah-dhu, for instance, isn't human. It's a dark entity composed of many minds, a thing from your nightmares...well, my nightmares. Faceless, voiceless, it's the shadow you see out of the corner of your eye. It has no conscience, and easily destroys a whole planet without remorse to achieve its aim. It wants Gethyon and Quin for their abilities to travel through space, and the reader never really gets to know why. By Keir, its powers have been severely limited, but its acts are no less evil. It's certainly not intended to be a redeemable, or in any way likeable, character.

Commander Rialto, who made Keir's life hell, also doesn't give us any reason to forgive him. Neither do Neoris or Dephon in Gethyon. Jinx - well, she's a killer, sassy, dangerous, and her motives for hunting Gethyon certainly don't earn any sympathy. The Emmisary in Keir doesn't get any gold stars for redemption either, although we learn something of his motivation. The thing is, I like my bad guys to be BAD, and sometimes even my good guys). Because everybody makes mistakes. It's their choices, and how those mistakes change them that shapes their definition of good and bad.

But readers will forgive some things over others. For instance, I'm not a fan of forced seduction/kidnap scenarios where the heroine falls for her captor, or the 'Mars needs Women' tropes. I watched a discussion on Twitter where a reader verbally shredded a book which had a kidnap with the hero determined the heroine should be his (although there was no forced seduction/rape) but he was being a total jerk, and yet the heroine fell for him. The reader was unimpressed to say the least (I never did find out what the book was though). But as Marcella Burnard proved to me with Nobody's Present in Tales from the SFR Brigade, I'll even enjoy a 'Mars needs Women' story if I like the characters. There it's down to not only the reader, but how exactly the author portrays the characters and writes the story. If they succeed in casting them in a sympathetic light, or give reasons why they've been driven to such desperate measures, you can at least understand, if not completely empathize. It's all a question of perspective.

So how bad DO you want your villain? Would you rather the protag was a redeemable bad guy/gal you can forgive? Or should that be the antagonist's role? Or would you rather the bad guys were just plain BAD?

Pippa's Journal

So, I have good news and bad news. Firstly the bad. My cyberpunk short story Reboot did not make the Sword and Laser anthology. Boo! However, since they took just 20 entries out of nearly a thousand, I don't feel quite so bad. Reboot will find a home, and if not, the benefit of self publishing is I can always release it myself. Another candidate for doing my own print anthology at some point.
The good news? Keir became a RomCon winner last week. Woo hoo! He now has a nice collection of shinies. :)

I hate zombie movies. I hate horror. I'm not a fan of teen romances. And yet, despite all that, I found myself watching, then reading Warm Bodies, and absolutely loving it! I can't quite explain why. I think part of it is this isn't your average zombie story for one. It's actually a sweet romance with some comedy and humour, and while the blurb calls it Romeo and Juliet, I'd say more Beauty and the Beast. While both those tropes have been done, for some reason it all just worked in this story for me. It was themes redone, but with a new twist. While I think I prefer the film over the book (but do read the book because despite the overused 'F' word and more grimness, and perhaps a less feasible plot, you get to hear more of the working inside R's mind and how it all came about), I devoured both. The fact that the author got me to overcome my revulsion for three genres AND something written in first person, and got me to sympathize with and cheer for a rotting, flesh-eating monster means he did something totally right. I just need to pin down how he did it...

In the meantime, I'll be posting a review of the film next week. I'll also be away from my computer (dragged away kicking and screaming, argh!) so I look forward to the comments on that on my return.

Ping Pong
Sharon, huge congrats on news of a third publication with TOR!

Donna, I am thankful for the teacher I met who inspired me just as yours did.

Laurie, hope to see you back soon as August winds toward its end...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tor Books to publish ECHO 8

Big news today! I'm so pleased to announce that my publisher for GHOST PLANET and THE OPHELIA PROPHECY is also going to publish ECHO 8.

The old Coleman School in Seattle, setting for ECHO 8
ECHO 8 is an earlier novel of mine, written while GHOST PLANET was on submission. It has long been a darling of my beta readers.

The book is romance with a sci-fi premise and lots of paranormal elements. I think it has a sort of noir-ish feel as well. It was a 2011 RWA Golden Heart Finalist, and won the 2009 RWA FF&P chapter On the Far Side contest (sci-fi/futuristic category).

Here's a quick plot summary:

The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance as three lives entangle: Jake, a man shifted to an alternate Earth, where he must drain energy from others to survive. Tess, the parapsychologist trying to save him. Ross, the FBI agent torn between duty and his love for Tess.

I'll keep you posted about release dates and such. Meanwhile, THE OPHELIA PROPHECY is scheduled for release March 4!

Friday, August 16, 2013


Dr. Scott Crom
In the days of black-and-white television there was a show called THIS IS YOUR LIFE.  Various celebrities would stand on a stage, and from behind the curtain a disembodied voice would tell a heartwarming story of the star from his or her childhood.  Then, out would walk a third-grade teacher or a church pastor who had once seen something special in that actor or singer or writer-to-be and there would be a tearful reunion.

The point of all that emotion was that there are people in most everyone’s life who have an influence, who steer the course of a person’s future in ways no one can predict.  There are people we remember fondly for the rest of our lives, though we may see them seldom, if ever, after those first meetings.

Dr. Scott Crom, professor of philosophy at Beloit College where I was a student back in the early 1970’s, was such an influential person for me.  He passed away last week at the age of 85.

Dr. Crom had already been teaching at Beloit for nearly 20 years when I met him in 1971.  (He started in 1954.)  He’d seen a lot of changes in that time, as you might imagine.  But though his students had gone from buttoned down to barely dressed, Dr. Crom himself seemed timeless, with an ever-present pipe, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled back and a slim tie of no distinct pattern.  A conservative image, I suppose, but the good professor hid much behind that fa├žade:  tremendous energy in front of a classroom, dry humor, an open and inquiring mind, a devotion to the Quaker religious philosophy, a fondness for Sherlock Holmes and, best of all, a not-so-secret love for . . . science fiction.

I didn’t encounter Dr. Crom as a philosophy professor.  I met him as the teacher of what Beloit called an Underclass Common Studies course.  These “freshman” (Beloit didn’t use that term) classes on a wide variety of wonderfully engaging subjects, were meant to allow students to explore academics without a lot of risk to their grade-point average (UCS classes were pass/fail), to give the profs a chance to do something that they loved without a lot of drudgery and to bring both groups together in a more relaxed atmosphere.  The courses were supposed to be the “ideal” of intellectual pursuit.  I loved them.

Dr. Crom’s course was on Science Fiction as Literature.  Or something.  All I remember was that I was in heaven.  We read Wells, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke.  We explored what was the leading edge of SF at the time, the New Age—Zenna Henderson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon.  I wrote a thirty-page paper for the course on the history of SF and fantasy films, and got an A.

One of the most memorable moments of that fall was the night Dr. Crom invited the class to his home for a get-together.  (This was a benefit of a small school like Beloit, and a tradition not much observed these days.  Professors invited us into their homes on occasion, and we behaved ourselves.)  He showed us his study, filled floor to ceiling on three walls with books, most of them paperbacks, most of them science fiction.  Of course, some idiot asked him if he’d actually read them all.  (I sincerely hope that wasn’t me!)  

He chuckled and answered, “Well, yes.  Some of them more than once.”

Of course, we students weren’t the only ones taken aback on occasion that fall.  The professor couldn’t understand our hostility to Heinlein.  (We read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and couldn’t get over its blatant sexism.)  Some of the students in the class were just indifferent to the idea of a hopeful future.  Cynicism had already taken hold of my generation.  This was the Seventies, remember, not the Sixties.  I think this had a profound effect on Dr. Crom.  He never taught the course again, which was a loss to all the Beloit students who came after us.

I made a special effort to take more courses from Dr. Crom, though.  Beloit helped me in this.  Course requirements at the college were divided into four “intellectual areas”.  You had to take a certain number of credits from each of the four areas.  Fortunately, math and philosophy were grouped in the same intellectual area, so I avoided taking any math classes by taking History of Philosophy I and II with my favorite professor.  

Yes, thanks to Dr. Crom, I know my Kant from my Kierkegaard and can admire the Greeks for more than just olives and feta.  But much more than that, I owe him my mature love of science fiction.  Oh, I had started reading SF as a kid, and already had some of the classics under my belt before I knew him.  Without that class, and Dr. Crom’s guidance, though, I might never have started reading with the critical eye that has led me here.  Those discussions in class led to an ongoing desire to meet with others who loved SF and wanted to talk about it.  That paper on SF films birthed a lifelong interest in film with a concentration in SF and fantasy that plays itself out regularly in this blog.  And God knows I wouldn’t be writing science fiction romance today without what I learned in that class.  Those books still reside on my shelf.  I refer to some of them regularly.

So, thank you, Scott.  After all these years, I know you’d want me to call you by your first name.  We were friends, after all, when we met infrequently on campus in those intervening years.  We had much in common, thanks to the gift you gave me so long ago.  I think of you often—whenever I re-read one of those old SF classics you introduced me to, whenever someone reinvents Sherlock once again and, now, whenever I look to where you’ve gone, in the vast unknown universe full of stars.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Hunt for the Elusive Reviewer

About three years ago, fellow author Lauri J Owen and I began a project. Between us, we decided to compile the most comprehensive list of book reviewers EVER! Two weeks ago, the list finally topped 300 reviewers, but I already knew a large chunk of it needed updating. We'd been busy adding new ones whenever we found them, but not going back to check those we had. Last year, a woman emailed me to share her huge file of romance reviewers and pointing out several dead and broken links on mine. But it's only in the last fortnight that I've really started a major overhaul as I hunt for suitable reviewers for the SFR Brigade's anthology.

I have to say it's been, on occasion, disheartening. Out of the 300 reviewers, I'm now down to 269 live and accurate links (many were dead, hadn't been posted to in over a year, had retired or quit, or the domain names had lapsed).

Of those, 44 are currently closed to review requests, with several others having restricted their openings by date, genre, or other preferences. 39 don't take self published works - an increase since we created the list - with some who formerly took self published work now rejecting it, or restricting it to authors previously trad/small press published and/or previously reviewed by the site in question. Some sites who do take it require a sample first and/or that the book has been professionally edited. In contrast, one site specializing in self published works specified they WON'T take anything that has been structurally and copy edited.

20 sites don't take ebooks (a slight rise, and perhaps surprising considering the increasing sales of digital versions). Many are not accepting ebooks either due to a backlog (either in general, or of ebooks specifically) or if a book is digital only. Some are specifying they won't accept an ebook that's only available on Amazon, while some will only consider a request if the book IS on Amazon. Several review sites take ebooks ONLY.

So, out of the remaining 269 reviewers, I've currently made 100 requests to those who accept digital-only, self-published science fiction romance. Out of those, I've had 7 say yes. Two others said no but offered me a book spotlight, with a third saying they may not review it (depending on time) but still offering me a promotional spot. One said no full stop. One had already reviewed it and another three had it on their TBR pile prior to my request. On a point of interest - one review site that had very tight restrictions on accepting self published works was very interested when I told her Linnea Sinclair had a story in the anthology (I discovered she was a fan of Linnea's after reading around on her website - this is where research is sooo important!). The rest have not (yet) responded. It's difficult to know how many aren't interested since many say they won't respond to requests unless they're accepting, or that no response after a certain time means not interested. Some ask you to nudge them if you don't hear.

But the number of dead links and those closed to requests, does this mean the professional reviewer is becoming a rare critter? Why are reviewers closing or restricting their requests? Is it the ease of self publishing which has overwhelmed these reviewers into closing? Is it the bad self published ones outnumbering the excellent ones, where authors have taken the time to have their work properly edited? The sheer volume of books now? The advent of eBooks, with many titles being digital only? Authors behaving badly? Maybe a mixture of all of that?

I can understand why even the most addicted bookaholic can get overwhelmed. I started reviewing for a site before I was published, then a second after getting my first contract. I made a commitment to review everything I read on Goodreads and Amazon. But I have less and less time to read, and I find myself growing ever more picky over books. Last year I had a DNF at my first review site. I've turned down pretty much every request from the second because either the book didn't appeal or the sample failed to impress. Last week I finally posted the review for a book I'd bought myself and read 14 months ago. Sheesh, how bad do I feel about that delay?! If I ran my own review site, the guilt alone would have me close it down in shame. The thing is that when I *do* read, it tends to be in a voracious burst, and I don't want to stop to write reviews. The one good thing about Goodreads is that you can at least rate without writing a review, unlike Amazon.

But according to a recent reader survey, it's reviews on Amazon that count more than those on Goodreads (which makes you wonder what Amazon might do knowing that. Or maybe they already know?). It makes sense to me that reviews on the actual retail site matter more - perhaps that final deciding factor in whether an unsure reader clicks that tempting buy button, even after all the sock puppetry and fake reviews. Now that Amazon have stopped restricting reviews by authors, I'm back to posting on there. But I have one rule. If I can't rate a book three stars at least, I won't post it. Cowardly? No. I'd just rather rave about the books I love than waste time on negative reviews for those I didn't. Not that I have an issue with anyone who writes a negative review, even if it's on one of MY books. I just don't want to do it myself. And while some may think me biased toward any of my fellow authors because I know/work with/am friends with, I'm not. If I didn't like your book, I won't have reviewed it. If I liked it, I'll have or will be rating it everywhere I can. It just might take a while...

For anyone associated with the anthology who would like a list of the review sites I submitted to, and what responses there have been so far (just in case any of you spot a new reviewer you think might like Tales and want to check it hasn't already been subbed there) you can email me at pippajaygreen at gmail dot com for the list. Any reviews I catch (not all reviewers notify you when and if a review goes live so I'm relying on Google Alerts) will be posted to the fanpage if they're good (and bad ones possibly to the Brigade group in case there's any feedback the authors might find useful).

Pippa's Journal
I'm still waiting for news on four projects. one of which at least I should hear about in the next 24 hours. Aside from working on my reviewers list and submitting Tales, I've been focusing on promotion rather than writing over the summer, and trying to get my sites up to date and arrange events for September. Hopefully I'll be back to writing once my monsters are back to school. I've just finished tweaking a project, and it looks like I'll be finishing my decopunk superhero story and a couple of Venus Ascendant shorts I have in mind to join Terms & Conditions Apply.

Ping Pong

Donna, enjoy your vacation!

Laurie, hope the month from hell won't be as hellish as you feared!

Friday, August 9, 2013


I'm enjoying a week of vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, so no post today.  Share my view from the back porch and take a deep breath.  I'll be back next Friday.  In the meantime, make sure to catch up with Pippa and Laurie below!

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Pair of Projects and a new Who

Created by Liza O'Connor
Summer is a hard time for me to write when I have my three monsters home for the holidays. But this year I don't even feel the inclination. Having done a short story and three sets of edits since the start of the year, attempting and once more failing CampNaNoWriMo, plus waiting for news on four projects that I hope to have contracts on, has apparently drained my muse. She's currently taking a break on the outer rim of the galaxy, and will let me know when she's ready to teleport back. :P

But I had two main projects I wanted to work on as and when time allowed. Firstly, I bit the bullet and claimed my dealer's table for WorldCon - LonCon 3 to be held in the UK in August 2014. Eeep! I have no idea what I'm doing but hope to gain a bit of experience at another con beforehand. Aside from taking my own work to the world's biggest scifi convention, I decided I wanted to represent the SFR Brigade too (and the talented other scifi authors I have the privilege of knowing). Top of my list of things that I want to promote is Tales from the SFR Brigade. Now, I could just print up leaflets/cards and put up a poster about it with links to the retail sites, but I know that people still like to see a physical product in their hands, despite the huge leap in popularity of the ebook. So I discussed the possibility of doing a one-off print edition to take as a display item to the con with Laurie. Just one that I can hand to people to look at, then give them a leaflet if they express an interest. After all, the dang thing is FREE, and hopefully by then it'll be up on Amazon too. So, more than a year since I've last done any work with a POD service, I'm back at relearning all the things I learned back before I had a contract, when I thought I'd be self-publishing my work. At the moment it's still in the early draft stages as I need to reformat the master document to get rid of some weird spacings, and on the possibility of more artwork from the cover artist to give it a decent back cover. I'll update you all when there's been more significant progress. In the meantime, be aware that I'm willing to take swag (and even books as interest and packing space allows) from Brigade members and fellow scifi authors (it must be SF related) but I'll post again closer to the time. If you want to get updates, you can join the event on Facebook here.

Secondly, I volunteered to go review seeking for the anthology. I'd already intended to do so on a smaller scale as I'm still trying to cadge more reviews for my other June release - my YA scifi Gethyon - plus my extensive book reviewers list is in desperate need of an update. So I've combined the projects, working my way through the list updating as I go, adding new ones, and looking for reviewers that will accept either book. It's a slow process as there are far more romance review sites on the list than any other genre, and of those many prefer to focus on contemporary and/or paranormal rather than scifi. My small but favourite group of reviewers have already said yes (bless 'em!) but I still have a long way to go. Of course, there's absolutely no guarantee that the reviewers who accept the books will give a positive review, but that's a truth all authors have to face when they put their work out there. If you can't learn to shrug off the negative ones well...I'm sorry, but you're going to find it hard going. The SFR Brigaders have also been discussing reviews and how to go about seeking them - you can check out a couple of blog posts I did on how NOT to do it here.

Who's the New Who?

What kind of geek would I be if I didn't mention the recent announcement of who will play the next Doctor? With a 35 minute show devoted to the reveal (something never done before and a bit overkill IMO, but I understand why they wanted to make a performance out of the event) we learned Peter Capaldi will be the new Doctor.

I'm pleased for several reasons. Aside from thoroughly enjoying Capaldi's protrayal of the twisted fallen Angel Islington in the BBC dramatization of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Capaldi is a long time fan of the show. He's already appeared in DW in Fires of Pompei, and in Torchwood's Children of Earth (and, funnily enough, as a Time Traveller in The All New Alexei Sayle Show - an episode called Drunk in Time). I'm also glad to see an older actor take the role. I really thought the BBC would keep going younger (and Matt Smith was the first actor to be younger than me - an inevitable but disturbing fact). This has led to a lot of complaints that Capaldi isn't 'hot'. Well, aside from being in the generation where the hotness or not of the Doctor was irrelevant, I'd say it depends on your perspective. I know a lot of older fans who find Capaldi quite dishy, but I still say it wouldn't matter to a true fan. I'm sure there's a lot of male fans to whom it will always been inconsequential. If your enjoyment of the series is based solely on the attractiveness of the actor playing the Doctor to you personally, you're going to be disappointed at least once in a while. You're also missing the point of the show...
I also know there's a lot of unhappiness over it being yet another white guy. What can I say? Perhaps it makes me sexist AND racist, but The Doctor has always been that, and despite my desire for equality in SF, that concept is stuck in my head. I wouldn't have been horrified by either (but I can imagine there might have been a huge outcry from some areas having seen enough negativity simply over Capaldi, sheesh). It would have been a bigger surprise, and in some ways I almost expected it after the announcement of a special show for the reveal. I think it's unfortunate that we've lost the Time Lord society in the story, which at least would have allowed for diversity in their race - as shown in Star Trek Voyager with Tuvok, the first black Vulcan. If the Doctor can regenerate into anything, why not into another kind of alien? (Oh, all right, we all know in reality the expense and trouble that would be for the SFX department and potential discomfort for the actor make that less feasible). But then, the beauty of being a SF/SFR author (and one of the reasons I started writing) is that I can create my own universe of diversity, and accept the bias in an iconic show like Doctor Who without having to hate on it. As the Angel Islington once said when the heroes of Neverwhere laughed at his offer to join him, "Ah, me..."
In consolation to those unhappy with Capaldi I'll say this. The Doctor will regenerate again. And again. And again. He will always change, and there will always be people who don't like it. Personally I can't wait to see how Capaldi will play the part, and how this will change the dynamic between the Doctor and Clara. (BTW I also posted on my blog about the prospect of a female Who, and why, surprisingly, I'm not all for one. Check it out here).

Pippa's Journal

No solid news to impart. Gethyon was in the LASR Book of the Month Contest at the end of last week - sadly it didn't place. I have tentative progress on two pieces of work that I can't yet announce (I HATE sitting on things like that when all I want to do is share!), and by this time next week I'll know if my cyberpunk short story will have made it into an anthology. If not, I've also had an offer on that from elsewhere.


I was desperately hunting for blog post ideas and came across this - The Lazy Bloggers Post Generator. You can vary most of the information to be included, or just leave it and hit Create Post and take pot luck. Here's my maybe less than humorous result. :P

Dudes I just discovered I have not updated this since 1999... You would not believe the fairy dust I have to clean up. I'm so sorry!.

I am lost in a sea of pseudo-olde-english with setting fire to people wearing Crocs, being distracted by the shiny, just generally being the life of the party to my kids, my day is a nightmare I would like to wake up from 3am to way past dusk. I am not being a whinging Pom or anything. perchance.

I absolutely, positively promise won't blog until the next time booze prices go up and I have to get sober for a while. No, really! What do you mean you don't believe me?

Hey, some days that would be better than nothing, right? Er, right?


A contest for unpublished and published (but uncontracted) authors!
****Permission to forward****
Turn up the heat on your writing career. This contest is open to any unpublished/uncontracted romance manuscript by all authors.

GRAND PRIZE: The grand prize winner of the contest will have their entire manuscript (400 pages, Courier, 12pt, Double spaced) reviewed by two professional editors at The Author's Red Room.

Final round judges

1) Historical/Regency
Editor - Holly Blanck, St. Martins
Senior Editor - Esi Sogah, Kensington

2) Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal
Assistant Editor - Kelly Quinn, Tor
Editor –Kristine Swartz, Assistant Editor, The Berkley Publishing Group

3) Romantic Suspense
Editorial Assistant- Lauren Plude, Grand Central Publishing
Editor Samhain -Tera Kleinfelter

4) Contemporary Long/Single Title
Editor –Deborah Werksman, Sourcebooks, Inc
Editor at large, Sue Grimshaw, Random House

5) Series ContemporaryAssociate Editor – Johanna Raisanen, Harlequin
Senior Editor Sweetheart Rose – Leanne Morgena, The Wild Rose Press

For More Information, entry form, and rules, see website at
For questions please email

Linda Andrews
Valley of the Sun Hot Prospects Chair
Ping Pong
@Donna - feeling a little envy over the conference. I have no idea if I'll ever be able to attend an event like that. And I'm still waiting on that Hollywood SF that will satisfy me fully sight, sound and story... And totally agree that Hollywood still isn't getting the great stories to match the great SFX. Why aren't they getting that?!
@Laurie - great review, and nothing encourages me to pick up a book than hear someone rave about something!