Sunday, April 27, 2014

The SFR Brigade Joins Forces with Brenda Novak "For the Cure"

This year, the SFR Brigade is throwing their creative forces behind the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research by sponsoring a category of science fiction and space exploration related bounty.

The bidding fun begins this Thursday, May 1st, and runs through the entire month of May for most items, with special one-day offerings and big-ticket item drawings happening as part of the main auction.

From the Brenda Novak Auction site:

"As a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author, Brenda has been able to count on her fans and her peers to support her annual online auctions, which runs May 1 – May 31st, helping her raise over $1.6 million so far! 

Brenda is an active mother of five whose youngest son, Thad, was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at the age of five. There began her personal crusade to fight a disease that affects millions. The 2011 statistics on diabetes are alarming — and clearly establish a challenge Brenda is trying to meet: improve lives by helping to raise money to battle this devastating disease. Data released by the ADA January 26, 2011 reveals there are 25.8 million children and adults in the United States — thus 8.3% of the population have diabetes. Another 79 million people have prediabetes. In 2010, 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed."

In addition to supporting this great cause, the Brigade hopes the offerings of special sci-fi and space memorabilia, collectibles and just downright "fun-to-have-stuff" will draw in a throng of new readers who might be enticed to give SFR a try.

Or if they're already a fan, they can follow the links to join the SFR Brigade as we continue a quest of "Conquering the Universe...One Story at a Time."

So what sort of treasures did we dig out of our storage holds to donate to this truly worthy cause?

Well, how about this:

Or this:

A colorful montage image of the Star Wars characters, perfect for your desk
--or the desk of your favorite Star Wars fan.

Or this:

This softcover book will never be offered for sale by the SFR Brigade. 
Only a few copies of the anthology exist.

Or this:

six item package including a bestselling hardcover novel, 
The Courtship of Princess Leia
Han Solo has some competition for the feisty princess's hand!

Or this:

When We Left Earth, 4 DVD set of the spectacular Discovery Channel series of space exploration.

Or this:

An exciting new "Pick Your Path to Romance" concept of multiple plot path stories.


and circuit boards to adorn your wall or compliment your costume.

Plus many more fun or historic items to discover.

And Science Fiction Romance books? Oh my yes, we have a plethora. A haul, if you will.

You can start out by checking out the digital (Amazon .mobi) SFR smorgasbord in the Boldy Gone E-Book Bonanza, a collection of over 30 Science Fiction Romance novels featuring Linnea Sinclair's just re-released classic with a totally cool new cover, The Down Home Zombie Blues. (Don't worry, ya'll. This type of ZOMBIE is not the undead, half-rotted, brain-eating paranormal variety, these ZOMBIES are an acronym for a very terrifying force from outer space.) Oh yes, and there's a $25 Amazon e-gift certificate that comes with the e-book package, so you can buy even more great SFR books when you've finished all of these (in about the year 2025).

But how about print books, you say? Ding, ding, ding!

Our own Sharon Lynn Fisher is offering a package of autographed copies of both of her Tor Science Fiction Romance novels, Ghost Planet, the just released The Ophelia Prophecy, and a nifty bonus...a future Advance Readers Copy of her next novel, Echo 8, to be released in early 2015.

And you can have a sneak peek at the Echo 8 blurb, too.

Linnea Sinclair is offering autographed print copies of two of her best-loved SFR novels, Games of Command and Finders Keepers. As a bonus, get a special mug featuring all of her covers.

Marcella Burnard, another previous RITA nominee in SFR is offering two SFR novels in her series, Enemy Within and Enemy Games.

Pauline Baird Jones has put together a Project Enterprise package of five print SFR books and teamed up with Anabanana on a selection of delicious custom soaps and lip balms.

Veronica Scott has a Titanic-themed package that includes her "space shipwreck" novel, The Wreck of the Nebula Dream and a copy of Escape from Zulaire, along with a genuine piece of coal from the real Titanic, and a reproduction White Star line mug as used on the actual ship.

And Spacefreighter's Pippa Jay is offering a Keir Gift Set including an autographed, print copy of Keir with a very special custom-made charm bracelet and bookmarks.

There are also other SFR book offerings from Brigade members Melisse Aires, Cathryn Cade, Eva Caye, K. M. Fawcett and Joni Hahn in the Brigade category.

But the Brigade doesn't have a monopoly on all the fun. The auction offers many chance-of-a-lifetime items such as meet-ups with famous authors, critiques by well-known authors, editors or agents, amazing trips, jewelry, decorative items and fun experiences.

Please join us on Thursday for the exciting start to the 2014 auction. Together we can make this the best auction yet and help make a difference in so many lives.

It's all for one and one for all....For the Cure!

Friday, April 25, 2014


This is still some people's idea of SF.

Science fiction as a recognizable literary genre has been in existence for almost two hundred years (if we start the count with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which is as good a place as any).  Yet when I tell people I write science fiction romance, the responses I sometimes get tell me people have the most amazing misconceptions about the genre.  (Never mind adding “romance” into the mix; we won’t even go there.)  When I heard some of those myths repeated on the first of BBC America’s four-part series THE REAL HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION last week, I figured I had to say something.

(By the way, the series is worth watching, even if that “real history” pertains mostly to film and starts with the movies of the 1970’s and reaches back (sometimes) for literary or film antecedents.)

Accordingly, here are Five Myths of Science Fiction that should be shot out of space with a laser cannon:

NUMBER FIVE:  Science Fiction Is All About Space and/or Aliens.

Long before William Gibson kickstarted the cyberpunk craze in the ‘90’s with Neuromancer, hundreds of writers and stories were exploring interior space as the setting for SF.  Indeed, if one of the definitions of SF is art that explores the impact of science and technology on human beings, then the very first SF novel, the above-mentioned Frankenstein, created a huge sub-section of the genre that has NOTHING to do with either space or aliens.  These are the “science goes wrong” stories, or “mad scientist” fiction, much of which is set right here on Earth.  And don’t forget what Rod Serliing could do with just a man, a room and some crazy lighting, no spaceships in sight.

NUMBER FOUR:  Science Fiction Is All About a Hopeful Future.

And speaking of Rod Serling, one of my favorite episodes is “Time Enough to Read”, in which Burgess Meredith plays an introverted librarian who somehow survives a nuclear holocaust.  He’s at first appalled and horrified to find himself the last man on Earth, but then he realizes he has plenty of food and water.  And books—millions of books to read!  Until he falls and breaks his glasses.   Oh, yeah, there’s a hopeful future for ya!

The list of dystopic SF is long and distinguished—1984, Fahrenheit 451, On the Beach, BLADE RUNNER, THE MATRIX, THE HUNGER GAMES, BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA.  It’s a list that pretty much eclipses more optimistic SF—STAR TREK, for example.  Still, a friend who calls himself a science fiction fan insists on this myth of hope in SF, and I heard it repeated on BBCA.  Me, I love STAR TREK, but I’m still waiting for my flying car.

NUMBER THREE:  Science Fiction Is All About the Science.

This is a relatively recent notion in the history of science fiction.  For most of its two hundred years, the science in SF has been completely speculative.  H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, E.E. “Doc” Smith, John Campbell, most of the writers of SF’s Golden Age and New Age weren’t stressed about conforming to the laws of physics or biology. 

Only after the Great Split of fantasy and SF in the 1970’s did literary SF begin to worry (to the point of obsession) whether the science was correct.  Science fiction in film and television went blithely on about its business, to great commercial success. TREK had its communicators, warp drive and teleporters; the MILLION DOLLAR MAN had his bionic parts; BATTLESTAR GALLATICA had its Cylons; ALMOST HUMAN has its more-human-than-human android cop partner just a few years into the future.  Who cares?  Science fiction is about building a believable world, one that works within the context of the story the author or screenwriter has created, not one based on the mundane rules of this world, necessarily.  After all, what can be imagined, can be made to be part of a new reality, something the most visionary scientists understand.

NUMBER TWO:  Science Fiction Is All About THE IDEA.

This old chestnut has been around for a while (and was repeated again on BBCA).  It is difficult indeed to argue against it, because when we think of the classics of SF, we seldom think of the heroes or heroines; we almost always think of the central theme and the answer to the question “what if?”.  What if our images of the Devil were based on the appearance of aliens who had left us on Earth and warned us they were coming back to take our children?  (Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End)  What if an alien culture existed with a mutable gender—they were male sometimes and female sometimes?  (Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness) 

But not all science fiction was written this way.  In the beginning and all through the Golden Age, SF had its share of heroes—H.G.Wells’ time traveler, Burroughs’ John Carter, Buck Rogers, all the classic superheroes.  Even during the New Age, the humans forced to respond in some way to the changes created by technology were more often the focus of the story than the tagline in books by Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land comes to mind) or Zenna Henderson (The People).

Nowadays the focus is on character-driven fiction in much of science fiction (and certainly in SFR), just as it is in other genres.  Even when the Big Idea is a great one, without relatable characters to carry the story, readers lose interest.

And, finally, the NUMBER ONE MYTH OF SCIENCE FICTION that deserves to be eradicated wherever it raises its ugly head:  Science Fiction is For Boys; No Girls Allowed.

Really?  After last year’s blowup in the Science Fiction Writers of America that spilled over into a couple dozen blogs, you’d think we could put this one to rest.  Happily, the BBCA show succeeded in finding qualified women to comment (including io9 blogger and SFR author Charlee Jane Anders).  Judging from what we saw on our TV screens, women are just as active and successful in SF film and literature as men.  Which is only as it should be.

Cheers, Donna

Friday, April 18, 2014


Artist's rendering of newly discovered Kepler 186f.

Five hundred light years from Earth in Cygnus A,  five planets circle a small, low-energy star.  The M-dwarf gives off a reddish light and less heat than our own G-type Sol, but the solar system it anchors, dubbed Kepler 186, is nonetheless remarkable.  The fifth planet in that system is the closest yet to being what we could call “Earth-like”, with a size, composition, distance from its sun, possible temperature and potential for liquid surface water and atmosphere similar to our own.

The find was announced April17 by scientists of NASA’s Kepler orbiting telescope project, and is detailed in the current issue of Science magazine. Kepler's mission is to scout the galaxy for planetary bodies. As mission science improves, planetary finds are coming thick and fast, with more and more falling into the “Goldilocks zone”, that orbital distance from the sun that is “not too near and not too far” to allow for proper temperature and liquid surface water to support life as we know it.

Born under a red sun? 

Kepler 186f, as the new planet has been named, is a mere ten percent larger than Earth, which makes it almost certainly a rocky planet like ours.  Of the Kepler telescopes’ previous 961 discoveries, only a few dozen have been in the habitable zone, and most of them have been gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn.  That makes the new discovery more like home than any yet discovered.

Harvard scientist David Charbonneau, who was not part of the NASA team, confirmed it.  “Now we can point to a star and know that there really is a planet very similar to the Earth, at least in size and temperature.”

As for that red sun?  Well, we might just have to call the planet Krypton.

Cheers, Donna

Information for this article provided from “Planet Possesses Earth Features”, by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer, THE FREE-LANCE STAR, April 18, 2014. Artists' renditions credit NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech.

Monday, April 14, 2014

And the Survey SAYS...

Last week we posted a poll on cover art preferences for SFR and offered two cover groups, one of uniformed characters and the other featuring bare torsos. Then we asked visitors to choose their favorite cover group.

The poll is closed and the readers have spoken. We very much appreciate everyone's enthusiasm in contributing to this hot topic.

Here are the results from the "Should We Put a Shirt on It" poll:

THIS Cover Group (in uniform)
THAT Cover Group (out of uniform)
I don't have a preference
I prefer particular covers from both groups

From the poll results, the preferences of the majority seems clear, but it may not be quite as cut and dried as it appears. Many of the commenters had some valid points to offer in the discussion. Among them:

Lizzie Newell said:
"Topless is fine if the story has a lot of sexual content but I prefer some tenderness between the characters, not sale of beefcake."

Monica Stoner said:
"I think the nekkid chest covers should indicate a level of sexual heat."

Cathryn Cade said:
"I agree the cover should indicate the level of heat in the book, whether sci fi or other genre (of romance)...It's a signal to readers to expect another CC romance, an adventure yes, but with heat."

Pippa Jay said:
"I'm not a fan of a shirtless chest particularly. Or I feel they should be on erotica or hot romance to indicate the heat level rather than on just any romance cover."

Linnea Sinclair said:
"Interesting timing on your question/poll as I recently regained my rights to my THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES and my agent was emphatic we return to the more SF-y covers (and less romance-y covers) because the move to the latter hurt my sales when Bantam did the switch (little did we know...)"

Heather Massey said:
"I do love a heroine or hero in uniform, but frankly we've done well advocating for covers that represent SFR *at all.* Our efforts have definitely paid off."

Donna S. Frelick said:
"I think it's interesting that the best covers of both groups featured couples--either dressed or semi-dressed. One of the salient features of great SFR is the balance between hero and heroine, and I think the cover should reflect that...As for heat level, yes, I do want some indication of that in the way the couple is portrayed. I don't want them looking away from each other, not touching, completely separate, as some of these covers show."

Marva Dasef said:
"Bare bodies are a trite carry over from Regency romances. I think SFR is better than that. Our stories are about SF, not just R."

Karin Shah said:
"I don't care which kind of cover is on an SFR, I'll read it!"

Maria said:
"...I think that the fact I liked certain covers from each group really reflects that it's more than just the image itself - there is a whole image, color, font thing going on for me when I look at covers."

PaulaL said:
"I like illustrative cover, which tell me about the -story- and the setting in time and space and culture. Nude bodies don't tell me about the setting and the story, they tell me that there are bodies with clothes off perhaps about to commence docking moves--which is NOT something characteristic to the particular story as opposed to any other time/space locus where people might take clothes off to have sex.."

There were a few comments on why we may not often see cover art with characters in uniform:

Greta van der Rol said:
"I would LOVE to be able to use pictures of men in uniform on my covers. But stock photo sites just don't have them. I've resorted to male torsos (not headless) to signal there is some romance in them, but I'm trending away from that."

Heather Massey said:
"Probably because the photographers would have to pay for renting/making costumes. Even if they did, the financial risk is probably fairly high. No guarantee of return on the investment...A good cover designer can probably find ways to work with the limits of available images."

Pauline Baird Jones said:
"It's not like there aren't costumes out there. I see them at the cons. Now we need someone with vision and a camera to set up shop..."

We also had some viewpoints about what should/should not be pictured on a cover:

Pauline Baird Jones said:
"When I went indie, I went back to covers w/o people. (wry grin)"

Cathryn Cade said:
"I must admit if I see a sci fi book with no people on the cover, I will pass it over UNLESS I know the author, because I assume there is little or no romance. I love sci fi, but I want the romance too."

Lizzie Newell said:
"I have a strong objection to decapitated male torso, the ones with the man's head cropped out. I view it as objectification of men. I suppose turn about is fair play, but I'd rather read about interesting characters than male mannequins."

And a few shared personal cover art experiences:

Pauline Baird Jones said:
"My last publisher used a corset shot for Steamrolled. I got a comment at an event about the reader being glad to see some "erotic steampunk."...And my books was totally not erotic. So obviously the book sent a message to that reader that was bound to be disappointed."

Lynda Alexander said:
"I know my SFR first proposed cover was exactly that-- a naked man's torso....and the whole point of the story was that my hero was a shapeshifter of the REPTILE kind. Why would I want a man on the cover??? Oy... (fortunately, my editor also went to bat for me, and we ended up with a dressed woman on the front instead)."

Pippa Jay said:
"I've just sent in cover art forms for a SciFi romance novella where I specified no naked torsos - will be interesting to see if I get it."

Cathryn Cade said:
"Since my books are hot sci fi romance, my heroes will no doubt continue to appear missing part of their clothing. It's a signal to readers to expect another CC romance, an adventure yes, but with heat."

Thanks to everyone who joined in on the discussion.